The first three sections of the new Interstate 69 corridor in southwest Indiana were officially opened. The new corridor covers a 67-mile stretch that comprises what has been the longest contiguous new interstate construction project in the United States.

The interstate opened to traffic by 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, in time for the Thanksgiving travel holiday.

"Many people said this interstate expansion wouldn't happen in their lifetime, but it's here. In addition to opening the road ahead of schedule and under budget, we're opening greater economic opportunity, faster and safer travel and improved connectivity," said Indiana's Governor Mitch Daniels.

According to public filings, the new I-69 corridor is opening several years ahead of schedule and nearly $80 million under budget in construction costs alone. When total project costs are factored, the corridor is opening more than $300 million under estimates.

In addition to project cost savings, the new corridor also delivers significantly reduced travel times. According to a new study from the Joint Transportation Research Program at Purdue University, the 67-mile alignment provides a 38-minute reduction in one-way travel time between Evansville and Naval Support Activity Crane compared to alternate routes.

In 2006, Gov. Daniels outlined a proposal, known as Major Moves, that involved leasing the Indiana Toll Road. Funds generated from that plan allowed construction to begin on the new I-69 corridor that will ultimately stretch from Evansville to Indianapolis through Bloomington. The initial 67-mile section connects communities from just northeast of Evansville at I-64 to the U.S. 231 interchange near the NSA at Crane.

"The opening of the new I-69 extension is a real game changer that benefits our state's economy by making Indiana a more viable hub for commerce through enhanced transportation capabilities," said Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber. "Communities along the corridor will see long-desired benefits from increased business investment."