Senior staff writer
The Indiana Senate voted 31-19 Monday to eliminate the 2006 restriction that bans I-69 from going through Perry Township.
Sens. Brent Waltz of Greenwood and Pat Miller of Indianapolis urged other senators to keep the ban in place.
The bill, as introduced in the House by Rep. John Price of Greenwood, allows the Indiana Department of Transportation to consider the State Road 37 corridor for the final extension of I-69 to connect with I-465.In 2006, Miller was among legislators from the Southside who led the battle to keep I-69 from following the State Road 37 corridor in Perry Township. At the time she also represented part of Johnson County.
Sandlin, a City-County councilor, has realized the threat to public safety since 1997. He is fearful that I-69 will hamper the expediency of fire, police and ambulance runs on the township’s west side plus added congestion on Southport Road for school buses.
Sandlin charged that the Indiana Department of Transportation has ignored what people in Perry Township have said about the negative impact of I-69 in the township. “I-69 would wall off the township,” he said.
Perry Township Schools Superintendent Thomas Little made a plea for public safety and maintaining timely school bus routes by keeping the ban in place. He reminded committee members that seven of nine access roads in the township would be cut off by I-69 as proposed. This would affect 2,000 students whose buses currently cross State Road 37 by extending their travel time from 20 to 30 minutes one way; there would also be added congestion on Southport Road.
“The impact of this decision is enormous,” Little said. “Other considerations are added fuel costs and more buses and access of fire, police and ambulances to our schools.”
Business owners Will Osgood, Randy Shields and Darrell Gossett testified that their business would be irreparably harmed by I-69 if the State Road 37 corridor is used.
They said the measure would be devastating, completely change the dynamics of the community and that INDOT needs to seriously consider other options, particularly a route to the west that would hook up with I-70 near Indianapolis International Airport and Ronald Reagan Parkway.
Shields emphasized the need for a far southern ring (I-865) that would further eliminate traffic congestion and enhance commerce. He criticized INDOT for having an anti-business and anti-neighborhood attitude and that federal highway officials are already sold on the route going through the township.
“This is not patchwork legislation,” said Shields of the 2006 law that banned I-69 through the township. “This was government listening to the people who are trying to survive. Let’s continue this discussion but let’s go east and west.”
Proponents who spoke in favor of rescinding the ban included Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christian Maslowski, Mark Fisher of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers.
Maslowski said 30 percent of chamber members are in Perry Township and that all options need to be considered for an I-69 route.
“We learned that many businesses supported I-69,” Maslowski said. “Some told us that if their business was interrupted they would still support the 37 route as an option because they believe in the greater economic good.”
Myers emphasized that I-69 in western Johnson County eventually could lead to an east-west highway that would connect I-69, State Road 144, I-65 and I-74.
Perry Township found an ally in Bloomington Sen. Mark Stoops, who stated, “INDOT’s going to put the route where they want. If we have a promise made by the governor and agreed to by the legislature, does it have any value?”
Committee chairman Carlin Yoder contended that the legislature should have never put into law where the interstate should not be located. The final roll call vote was 5-3 with Yoder casting the deciding aye vote, which sends the bill to the Senate for a full vote.
In a related development, INDOT has opened the I-69 section 6 office near State Road 37 at 7847 Waverly Road near the Johnson-Morgan county line. The office is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays. Comments about the interstate may be made there or by calling 881-6408 or emailing.
More information or comments about I-69 can be made either by walking in or appointment by calling 881-6408 or emailing section firstname.lastname@example.org.