Anybody who has traveled along I-69 between Martinsville and Bloomington has probably noticed that the orange cones, which have become a longstanding staple of that stretch of highway, are still present.
The near completion of that portion of the interstate, known as Section 5, comes as welcome news to many local residents and motorists who have dealt with several delays in the substantial completion of the project.
When work started to convert Ind. 37 between Bloomington and Martinsville into I-69 in 2014, the state eyed a date for substantial completion as Oct. 31, 2016.
During the construction, however, a number of issues arose that caused for several delays in the substantial completion of the project.
INDOT took over management of the project from I-69 Development Partners in August 2017.
While substantial completion has been in the rearview mirror for a couple of months, punch-list work continued, resulting in lane closures and slower speeds. And some of the work still remains to be completed.
On Thursday, Manning told the Reporter-Times that work on the mainline, or the highway itself, of that section of the interstate has been complete for some time.
A lot of what crews are working on now include fencing along the mainline, which delineates between property owned by the state and private property.
“So they are installing (fencing) throughout the corridor right now,” Manning said. “They have some additional signage that has been placed over the last couple of weeks, but that is pretty much done.”
Many of the interchanges will also see some lighting added to give motorists some extra visibility at night.
“There is some of (the lighting) at the Ind. 46 interchange that is going on right now,” Manning noted.
Because the weather has been somewhat mild over the last few weeks, crews have also had the opportunity to plant some trees along the corridor.
“We have been able to do some tree planting that otherwise we would have had to do in the spring,” Manning said. “So, we are getting some of that done.”
For the most part, all of the lanes of traffic along Section 5 are open, and motorists can travel at regular interstate speeds.
The cones are still in place, though, in the event crews have to work in a given area.
“If we are doing work in an isolated area, we do keep the barrels out there in case we do need to put out a temporary lane restriction,” Manning said. “But all of the travel lanes are open the vast majority of the time now.”
Much of the work that is currently taking place along the corridor is work that generally takes place toward the end of a project.
“Putting up that fencing, doing drainage, doing lighting — that is the type of stuff that generally we do at the very end of a project,” Manning said.
Now that the winter season has arrived, Manning noted that it is unclear how much longer workers will be out on the highway getting those last few bits of work complete.
Some things, like lighting, cannot be typically done in wet weather, but fence work can be done in wetter conditions.
“With fencing, with signage, one of the things that gets tricky in the winter is if we do get a really cold spell and the ground starts to freeze, then it is hard to do fence installation or sign installation,” Manning added.
Section 6 update
While Section 5 is nearing completion, INDOT is still working on Section 6 of the project, which runs between Martinsville and Indianapolis along Ind. 37.
According to Manning, the design work for the entire Section 6 corridor is progressing and design contracts for the Martinsville phase was awarded earlier this year.
“The first construction contract will be awarded here shortly for the offline Martinsville work,” Manning said.
That offline work includes aspects like work on local access roads, work on Cramertown Loop and the overpass connecting Grand Valley Boulevard and South Street.
The contract for that work is expected to be awarded shortly, and work is expected to start in the spring of 2019.