Challenge

Reinvigorate the reconstruction of former Indiana State Route 37 into the new I-69, focusing on Section 5, the 21-mile stretch between Bloomington and Martinsville, Indiana. This portion of the I-69 project was already months behind schedule and one of Governor Eric Holcomb’s top priorities when Joe McGuinness and Travis Underhill joined the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) in 2017.

Background

In 2004 the Federal Highway Administration selected a 142-mile corridor of State Route 37, then a four-lane divided highway, to be converted into the new Interstate 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 (IDP), a firm that was majority-owned by a European company. That partnership stalled, and as the project neared its original deadline in 2016, it continued to drag due to several issues, including communication, permitting, design and timely payments to subcontractors. By January 2017 the Indiana Financial Authority (IFA) was searching for a way to save the project, and by July the Indiana state 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 was under its control. Newly-appointed INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness put Deputy Commissioner Travis Underhill in charge of the project. Travis’s 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.”

Solution

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 weight 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.

Result

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.

Timeline

2014

Section 5 public private partnership established with bond financing and Federal Highway Administration funding

2016

The Section 5 public private partnership is reevaluated due to extreme delays in schedule

2017

  • Joe McGuinness and Travis Underhill join INDOT
  • The IFA dissolves the Section 5 public private partnership
  • INDOT regains sole ownership of Section 5 project and reorganizes the project under a new timeline

2018

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.”

Chris Jensen

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.”

Gary Pool

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.”

Rex Dillinger

Former Common Council Member and business owner in Noblesville, Indiana

Are you struggling with a challenging project? We’ve been there. Let’s talk about how we can help you turn things around.

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