Evansville Courier & Press staff reports

Gov. Mitch Daniels announced today that Interstate 69 will have no tolls between Indianapolis and Evansville.

The governor first made the announcement this afternoon in Indianapolis. He will be in Evansville later today.

Daniels also proposed construction of the Indiana Commerce Connector, which would link interstate highways through Morgan, Johnson, Shelby, Madison and Hancock counties in central Indiana.

The Connector will be built as a public/private partnership, and revenue generated from the project will be used to help fund I-69, Daniels said.

"We listened carefully to the concerns of some Hoosiers about tolling I-69, and about traffic between Martinsville and I-465, and we've come up with a solution," the governor said in a statement.

Daniels has directed the Indiana Department of Transportation to notify the Federal Highway Administration that the state is moving ahead to build I-69 as a non-toll interstate.

The governor's office said INDOT's budget already includes $700 million of Major Moves money to start building I-69 in 2008. Construction is expected to start outside Evansville, near Interstate 64 and State Road 57, heading north to Indianapolis.

The Major Moves money is expected to fund the interstate from Evansville to the Crane Naval Warfare Center about six years after construction begins. The cost of the entire highway is estimated at more than $2 billion

"Major Moves gave us a way to get started on I-69 by 2008, a decade ahead of the previous plan. And it provided enough cash to build at least to Crane. Now, we've got an even better idea about how to finish the job," Daniels said in a statement.

The precise route of the commerce connector near indianapolis has not been determined, the governor's office said. It would be about 75 miles in length and will be owned by the state of Indiana.

The company selected to build the road would determine where construction would begin and would open various segments as they are completed. It is expected - provided the next legislature transfers the tolling authority - that the entire project could be open to traffic within 10 years of the first groundbreaking.

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