Officials discuss I-69 issues; say toll road is possible

The proposed Interstate 69 project could bring trade and money through the Mid-South.  Monday, people from seven states gathered in Memphis to share ideas on how to profit from the project, including charging motorists to drive on it!

When complete, I-69 will stretch from Mexico to Canada, passing right through the Mid-South.  While many see it as a way to increase national trade, others are looking for local financial gains.

Franklin Webster, of the Tunica Convention and Visitor's Bureau, said when the stretch of I-69 leading to Tunica opens in October, people will be able to drive from Memphis to Tunica exclusively on highways.

"It will really change the access point of visitors who come either East, West or North of Tunica who come into our area," Webster said, "and it will make it a whole lot easier for our employees and for residents of Memphis to get back and forth to Tunica."

Unlike other interstates in the area, I-69 could become a toll road.  Proponents of the idea say tolls are the only way to get it funded.

Others said a better idea is to get private companies to pay for the interstate, "Because of their ability to build things cheaper than government can do it," said John Caruthers of the I-69 Highway Coalition. "They can project 8 or 9% revenue, or profit, you might say." 
Caruthers said private companies would get their money in revenues, plus receive an easier way to transport their products.
Officials said ultimately the process involved in building a toll road is a long and possibly bumpy one, requiring state and federal approval.

The section of I-69 opening near Tunica is only the second part of the Interstate to be open.  The other section of the highway winds through Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.