Bridge Beams Set for Sample Road over I-69 Southbound (Video)

Screenshot 2017-07-22 11.58.46Yesterday, the 4 beams were set for portion of the Sample Road interchange that will go over I-69 southbound. The northbound beams will be set at a later date.

While I’m sure that watching road construction is like watching paint dry for most people, beam setting is really a pretty impressive and precision operation, involving 2 cranes.

Here is a video I made of the operation from my drone. I did my best to condense 2 hours of work into a 9 minute video:

Beam Setting at Sample Road
Click the Image for the Video


Thank you very much to INDOT and Keramida (engineering firm) for allowing me to film this operation from my drone safely. In particular, thanks to Sandra Flum, Mark Flick, and Bruce Winningham.

Here is a map that shows approximately where the beams were set:

Screenshot 2017-09-09 07.48.54
Sample Road and State Road 37 (Future I-69)

The beams were set for the bridge over the future southbound lane, which is west of the existing southbound lane. The northbound lane will become a frontage road and the current southbound lane will become the future northbound lane in this area.

I-69 Section 5 Winterization Plans

I-69 Vernal Pike
I-69 Vernal Pike

MoCoGov readers have probably noticed that I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from blog posting for the election. Now that that awful thing is behind us, I’ll get back to writing more frequently. And today’s news gives me a chance to post on a subject that never fails to cheer me up — road construction!!

I-69 Development Partners provided their plans for winterization of Section 5 of I-69 last week at the MPO Policy Committee meeting. I will admit that the committee was by and large underwhelmed, and had hoped for a much more detailed schedule. I don’t doubt that they (we) will continue to push for such. But at least this plan gives motorists some idea of how the road will be configured for the winter.

Per their “Winter safety plan”, I-69 Development Partners will:

They say that these items will be completed by the end of the year, with a “few work items carrying over into early January if the weather holds.”

The single-lane traffic at the Bryant’s Creek Bridge is probably the biggest concern with the winterization plan. Since we have not been provided with a more detailed schedule yet, it isn’t clear how long this area of the road will be restricted.

Rockport Road Bridge over I-69 Nearly Complete

Another quick update on I-69 construction — it appears that the Rockport Road overpass over SR 37/future I-69 is ready to open any day now, as is the new alignment of That Road connecting to Rockport Road.

The following map shows the overpass, as well as the new That Road alignment. That Road on the east side of I-69 will no longer connect to That Road on the west side. Instead, That Road on the east side will turn north (as shown by the red line below) and connect with Rockport Road. The red lines are a bit squiggly because I created them using RunKeeper, and unfortunately I can’t always walk in a perfectly straight line!

Screenshot 2015-08-16 17.22.13

Here are a few pictures of the new road:

Rockport Road, Facing Northeast
Rockport Road, facing northeast to the edge of the new construction
Rockport Road bridge over I-69
Newly paved and striped Rockport Road bridge going over I-69. The road includes on-street bike lanes in each direction, which you can see to the right.
Western Terminus of Rockport Road Overpass Over I-69
This is the western terminus of the overpass. There is still a bit of work to be done on the transition.
New alignment of That Road, which will no longer cross I-69. This is a new-terrain road that connects That Road on the east side of I-69 to Rockport Road.

Since That Road on the east side of I-69 will no longer connect with or align with That Road on the west side of I-69, there has been some suggestion that That Road on the west side should be renamed. Might I suggest “This Road”?

I-69 Section 5 Synopsis Provided at Open House

logoLast night, I-69 Development Partners, the contractor hired by the Indiana Finance Authority to design, build, operate, finance, and maintain Section 5 of I-69 held a (contractually-required) open house to share with the public some more specifics about the I-69 Section 5 development plan. Construction is expected to begin on Section 5 literally any day now, and will be completed by the end of 2016.

I’ll comment on some specifics of the plan in future posts — but wanted to get out to the public who wasn’t able to make it to the open house a copy of a synopsis of the route and plan that was handed out at the open house. I find this an extremely helpful and informative summary of what is planned for each each access point (i.e., interchange, closure, overpass, bridge, sound wall, etc.), and was surprised that the HT didn’t include it in the article published today on the open house (unless I missed something): Tapp Road changes among updates at I-69 open house (HT subscription required).

The handout can be found here: I69 Section 5 Synopsis

Note: this is a scan of a paper copy I received; I’ll try to get an electronic copy to substitute.

Winning and Losing Teams for I-69 Section 5 Released

logoYou have probably already heard in the media about the selection of a winning proposal to design, build, operate, maintain, and finance Section 5 of I-69. However, you probably haven’t seen all of the winning and losing teams yet!

This past Wednesday, the Indiana Finance Authority preliminarily announced the winning bid to design, build, operate, maintain, and finance the construction of Section 5 of I-69, 21 miles of highway from Bloomington to Martinsville. I-69 Development Partners, led by prime contractor Isolux Infrastructure Netherlands B.V. from Spain, was selected as the preferred proposal.

The winning proposal would design and build the highway for $325M. The state will pay $21.8M per year over a period of 35 years (minus any penalties for non-performance), which will cover not only the design and construction, but also all maintenance and operation, including snow and ice removal, repair, resurfacing etc. for the entire 35-year term of the contract. In the form of public-private partnership used for this contract, the contractor provides the financing for the project. However, unlike most arrangements in which the contractor provides the financing for an infrastructure project, this project will not be a toll-road.

The full press release from the Indiana Finance Authority can be found here:

More interesting than the press-release, however, is the full list of proposing teams, including all of their subcontractors.  In all, there were 4 teams proposing, all with very generic names: Connect Indiana Development Partners, Plenary Roads Indiana, WM 1-69 Partners, LLC, and I-69 Development Partners. Each team consists of an “equity member” (essentially a prime contractor) and over a dozen partners and subcontractors, including construction, design, environmental, operations and maintenance, etc.

The actual contract has not yet been released to the public; however, according to the Indiana Finance Authority, “portions of the preferred proposal” will be posted on its website next week. You can be sure that MoCoGov will be watching!

I-69 Section 5 and Fiscal Constraint

logoYesterday, an article in the Herald Times (INDOT seeks local OK to start I-69 work along Ind. 37 – behind a paywall) reported on the recent request from INDOT to the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to include I-69 Section 5 in its Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) at the April 12, 2013 meeting. The portion of I-69 Section 5 under MPO jurisdiction runs along the State Road 37 corridor from Victor Pike north to just north of Kinser Pike (Section 5 itself extends into Morgan County).

The discussion that I’m amplifying in this posting began in the comments to the Herald Times article above.

A poster named citizen-dmc wrote:

How can INDOT consider this when there is no money to pay for Section 5? 

All of the money was allocated for Section 4.

WHERE IS THE MONEY? Can someone explain.

The precious darlings from INDOT think money grows on trees, but they have not provided any revenue source for the completion of it up to Indianapolis and I-465

Of course this comment refers to the requirement that, for a local MPO to include a project in its TIP (a prerequisite for federal funding), the project must be “fiscally-constrained” — that is, there have to be identified funding sources for the project. Sections 1 – 4 of I-69 (running from Evansville to Victor Pike, south of Bloomington) were funded from the Major Moves program, from the one-time money received by the state through the lease of the Indiana Toll Road. The Major Moves account, however, has now been depleted.  Both opponents and supporters alike of the project have noted that traditional funding sources for road construction (i.e. gas taxes) were unlikely to be adequate to support Sections 5 and 6 — i.e., completion of the highway from Victor pike up to Indianapolis. Therefore, by that logic, the MPO would not and could not approve the addition of Section 5 to the TIP because it is not fiscally constrained.

This is unlikely to be a winning argument, however. There are several developments that I think will allow INDOT to clear the fiscal constraint requirement: additional road funding and a public-private partnership (P3) approach.

Additional Road Funding

This development will probably not have any impact on INDOT’s approach to funding I-69 Section 5 in the short-run. However, it will give INDOT substantial additional “breathing room” to pursue the Public-Private Partnership approach described below.

Pending legislation in the General Assembly would provide INDOT with more funding, by (a) eliminating the portion of the gas tax that is skimmed off the top for the State Police and BMV and (b) redirecting some of the sales tax on gasoline to road funding. Per the usual distribution formula, this additional revenue would be split between INDOT, counties, and cities and towns. Incidentally, although sales tax receipts are up from last year, these two approaches are both essentially zero-sum, and would require cutting of other services in order to redirect this revenue for road funding.

There are also several more long-term approaches under consideration to increase road funding by taxing alternatively-fueled vehicles in a way that equalizes their contribution to road construction and maintenance with equivalent conventionally-fueled vehicles and/or by taxing vehicles by miles traveled (much more difficult to implement!).

I wrote a bit more about these initiatives in Counties Agitate for Increased Road Funding. INDOT could see over $150M in increased funding annually from these legislative changes.

Public-Private Partnership (P3) Approach

Another approach that will allow INDOT to work around (or do an end-run around) the fiscal constraint requirement is through what is, somewhat Orwellianly, called a public-private partnership (P3). The Federal Highway Administration defines P3 as:

“contractual agreements formed between a public agency and a private sector entity that allow for greater private sector participation in the delivery and financing of transportation projects.” (Federal Highway Administration P3 Defined)

 Most often, P3 is seen with respect to operation of existing toll roads. The Indiana Toll Road lease was conducted under a P3 model called Long Term Lease Concession. Numerous toll roads are operated under Operations and Maintenance Concessions, in which contractors are hired to collect tolls and maintain the roads in return for contractually-specified payments.

There are also a number of P3 models that are used to construct new roads. From conversations with various personnel at INDOT, I believe INDOT will be pursuing a P3 model called the Design-Build-Finance (DBF) approach. With DBF, the contractor hired to design and build the road is also responsible for financing it (through commercial debt of some kind). In return, the project sponsor (INDOT, in this case) agrees to make payments to the contractor out of the usual appropriations (i.e., from gas taxes) over a period of time. The payments to the contractor would have to cover the costs of the design/build services themselves, the cost of financing to the contractor, and of course a level of profit to the contractor adequate to encourage them to accept this deferred compensation.

With this approach, the initial costs can be deferred and/or spread out over time. In a way, this is like purchasing a car with a vehicle loan rather than with cash. Rather than a $25,000 payment in one year, you might only have to pay $6000 over one year in car payments. Essentially the buyer is pushing out costs to the future — but the annual costs at the beginning are lower. And further, the law defines DBF arrangements as deferred payments, rather than debt — so the state isn’t even technically taking on any debt with this approach.

Like it or not, DBF this seems to be an end-run around the fiscal constraint requirement, and will very likely be the approach that INDOT takes when it approaches the MPO for inclusion of Section 5 in the TIP in April.