Proposed new-terrain highway threatens forests, karst and wildlife.

The Wesley Chapel Gulf (pictured above) is a 1,000 acre sinkhole — a national natural landmark — that could be impacted by Route O of the Mid-States highway. All photos by Steven Higgs

What is the Mid-States Corridor Project?

The Mid-States Corridor Project is a proposed new-terrain highway connecting Rockport, Indiana to Interstate 69. It would utilize existing US 231 from Rockport to I-64, then bypass Huntingburg and Jasper and reach I-69 in one of three directions: northwest, due north, or northeast.

Preparation of a Tier 1 environmental impact statement (EIS) is underway. The original release timeline — Fall of 2020 — for the draft EIS has been pushed back.  Release of the draft EIS will be followed by a formal public comment period and public meetings. Once the public comments are considered, and any further project changes made, a Final Environmental Impact Statement will be published along with a Record of Decision that selects the final preferred highway route, in the form of a 2,000-foot wide corridor. The next stage — if the project goes forward — would be a Tier 2 EIS that would identify and analyze the exact on-the-ground alignment of the highway within the 2,000-foot wide corridor selected in Tier 1.  For the Tier 2 process, the route may be subdivided into sections and a separate Tier 2 EIS prepared for each section. For example, for the new-terrain I-69 project, the final route was evaluated in six separate Tier 2 environmental studies.   Construction cannot start until the Tier 2 process — either for a section or the entire route — is completed.

The draft EIS is expected to examine 10 highway alternatives along 5 route corridors and select one of these alternatives as the preferred alternative. The total length of the 10 alternatives ranges from 56 to 101 miles. Miles of new-terrain roadway range from 34 miles to 62 miles in length, beginning at the I-64/US 231 interchange south of Huntingburg. The northern endpoint of the project depends on the corridor selected. The options are: I-69 at Washington, I-69 at US 231, or I-69 at Bloomington via SR 37 from Bedford or Mitchell. The 10 alternatives include different types of highway design — freeway, expressway, or super 2 — within the 5 corridors.

The construction cost estimates for these alternatives range from $300 million to $1.47 billion.