Reinvigorate the reconstruction of former Indiana State Road 37 into the new Interstate 69, focusing on Section 5, the 21-mile stretch between Bloomington, Indiana, and Martinsville, Indiana. This portion of the I-69 project, one of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s top priorities, was already months behind schedule when Joe McGuinness and Travis Underhill joined the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) in 2017.
In 2004, the Federal Highway Administration selected a 142-mile corridor of State Road 37, then a four-lane divided highway, to be converted into the new I-69. The project was split into six sections, the first four of which were completed by 2014. When it came time to tackle Section 5, a public private partnership (P3) was established between INDOT and I-69 Development Partners, a firm that was majority-owned by a European company. That partnership stalled and, as the project neared its original 2016 deadline, it continued to drag due to several issues, including communication, permitting, design and timely payments to subcontractors. By January 2017, the Indiana Finance Authority was searching for a way to save the project and, by July, the Indiana Legislature had negotiated a takeover of the project, dissolving the P3 and handing the reins to INDOT.
A thorn in the side of both the public and the government, Section 5 was at the top of INDOT’s to-do list as soon as it gained control. Newly-appointed INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness (now Avenew CEO) put Deputy Commissioner Travis Underhill (now Avenew Vice President) in charge of the project. Travis’ first task was to reevaluate the project’s schedule. “The detouring and lane shifting throughout the 20 miles of the corridor was constant. It was unsafe and caused all kinds of problems,” Travis said. “It was frustrating to drive through and punishing to the locals.”
INDOT assumed a construction manager-role that was entirely unique to the situation — a role never before allowed by statute except in the case of the Section 5 takeover. In the position of general contractors but carrying the influence of a state entity, Joe and Travis took advantage of INDOT’s access to local government in Monroe County, meeting with local leaders regularly to give them updates that could be passed on to constituents.
Travis and Joe’s commitment to transparent communication among contributors, which was fundamental in the development of the Indiana Transportation Team, renewed local confidence in the project. “We had a constantly open line of communication with local leaders — prior to our leadership, they weren’t getting any information,” Travis said.
This local outreach extended to Indiana University, whose main campus in Bloomington was not exempt from struggles connected to the project. “We had regular coordination meetings with the IU athletic department,” Travis said. “If a nearby university’s team was coming to town for a game, they had to deal with all that traffic confusion because they were driving through the whole job. So we opened those lines of communication up, too. We helped nearby communities feel like they were a part of the project. That helped us work together to solve problems along the way.”
Travis and Joe also used their talents for communication with subcontractors who were suffering due to late payments for their work. They put in time with the leadership at tried-and-true INDOT partners like Crider & Crider, Force Construction and E&B Paving, who needed assurances to stay with the faltering project. They all trusted in Travis and Joe’s outlook for Section 5 — and they all stayed on to see it through to the end.
Section 5 of the new Interstate 69 was substantially completed in November 2018, allowing motorists to use the new lanes with minimal restrictions while fencing and landscaping projects continued into 2019.
The Interstate 69 Section 5 public private-partnership is established with bond financing and Federal Highway Administration funding.
The Section 5 public private partnership is reevaluated due to extreme delays in the schedule.
- Joe McGuinness and Travis Underhill join the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).
- The Indiana Finance Authority dissolves the Section 5 public-private partnership.
- INDOT regains sole ownership of the Section 5 project and reorganizes the I-69 project under a new timeline.
By the end of the year, Section 5 of I-69 is substantially completed, allowing motorists to use the new lanes with minimal restrictions.
“Joe McGuinness has experience in local government and state government both as an executive and as part of a larger team. He’s overseen operations that impact 6.9 million people every day. That’s a skill set very few people have.”
Mayor of Noblesville, Indiana
“Every project has a honeymoon phase. Then there’s the working relationship — the marriage part. That’s where all the work is. Joe McGuinness and Travis Underhill can get you through that.”
County Engineer, Hancock County, Indiana
“Joe McGuinness and Travis Underhill leave no stone unturned. They don’t go in with tunnel vision or one thing in mind. They’re open to any solution, and they look for the best solution.”
Former Common Council Member and business owner in Noblesville, Indiana
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