When Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke was appointed to Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s Blue Ribbon Transportation Panel last year, he already knew which project he’d need to promote: a new Interstate 69 bridge over the Ohio River.
“I think there is a notion in Indianapolis that Interstate 69 is done once it gets to Indianapolis,” says Winnecke. “That’s not the end of the road. It has to be connected to the south.”
The panel, which presented its findings to Pence in early June, consisted of community leaders from across the state, and produced recommendations for long-range transportation plans. The plan deals with everything from water, air, road, and rail, setting priorities for nearly 40 projects across Indiana.
The I-69 bridge was one of the Tier 1 — or top priority — projects on the list. However, the project’s cost will be an obstacle. Funding will have to come from state and federal sources.
“I think people understand and appreciate the concept, it’s just a matter of finding the funding,” says Winnecke.
Winnecke and Evansville Regional Airport Executive Director Doug Joest represented Evansville on the panel. Joest agreed the most important panel topic for Evansville was the Interstate 69 bridge.
Winnecke and Joest say they wanted to make sure Evansville’s transportation needs are understood by others, while also understanding the needs of other communities.
“(The Panel) also gave a combined voice for each of the modes of transportation,” says Joest. “For example there were two other members of the panel that represented Indiana airports. So when aviation policies were discussed, we could collectively present it as an aviation challenge, not an Evansville, Indianapolis, or South Bend challenge.”
Winnecke points out that the state of Kentucky is spending millions of dollars upgrading its parkway system to interstate standards. There is no point in doing that, he says, unless the Ohio River Bridge is constructed.
“I am very optimistic the bridge will move forward,” says Winnecke. “There is a little-known group called BridgeLink, and it is a group of interested parties in Evansville and Henderson. It is a bi-state advocacy group, and its only work is to advocate for and educate people about the importance of that bridge.”
For more on BridgeLink, visit its Facebook page. For more on Interstate 69 construction, visit buildi69.com.