Senior staff writer
Public sessions conducted at three sites by Indiana Department of Transportation representatives stirred controversy again over the final extension of Interstate-69 from south of Martinsville to the Southside or Far Westside of Indianapolis.
Details of the potential footprint of the five preliminary routes, including the originally proposed route that follows Indiana 37 from Martinsville to the Southside, were presented at meetings at Perry Meridian, Mooresville and Martinsville high schools last week.
The five routes being considered by INDOT include the State Road 37 corridor, two routes that would turn I-69 north and west from Morgan County to connect with I-465 around Mann Road and two routes that swing I-69 to connect with I-70 west of Plainfield.
The latter two routes drew the public’s ire at last week’s meeting at Mooresville High School that had to be moved from the auditorium to the more spacious gymnasium.
Property owners, mostly rural, in Morgan County objected to two routes that would connect I-69 to I-70 that would improve ground transportation of goods from numerous warehouses near Indianapolis International Airport. Some property owners already placed signs: “No Alt 69 – Stay on 37.”
The State Road 37 corridor is the route favored by Johnson County leaders and the Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce that sees the corridor as opening up commerce on the far Westside of Johnson County.
As proposed, the corridor would have interchanges at Smith Valley, County Line Road and Southport roads with overpasses at Olive Branch, Fairview and Wicker roads plus Epler Avenue.
A spur from Edgewood Avenue would go northwest and connect with a new interchange between White River and the existing I-465/Ind. 37 interchange. The spur would preserve some businesses on Ind. 37.
However, existing businesses along the Ind. 37 corridor in most of southern Perry Township and northern Johnson County would be affected adversely by the I-69 extension.
The Ind. 37 corridor, because it already exists, also was the route identified in a 2004 environmental impact study as the best route for I-69 Section 6, the final link of the interstate between Indianapolis and Evansville.
However, several state and Perry Township officials and a citizens group, Preserve Perry Committee, remain opposed to I-69 coming through the township, particularly along the Ind. 37 corridor.
Greenwood Rep. Brent Waltz has been critical of the route because it would have a negative impact on the economy of Perry Township and would drastically reduce the assessed property valuation of the area.
Several years ago, then-Perry Township Trustee Jack Sandlin, now a member of the City-County Council, led the charge against the Ind. 37 corridor. Then Southside lawmakers led the charge to pass a bill that forbade INDOT from considering the route through Perry Township; however, that law was rescinded by the legislature last year.
The Preserve Perry Committee contends the route through Perry Township would be a safety hazard and have a negative economic impact on township school bus routes; add to traffic congestion east and west on narrow Southport Road; negatively affect existing businesses on Ind. 37 in the township with several businesses forced to relocate; and create heavy traffic at the existing interchange of Ind. 37 and I-465 and a new I-69/I-465 interchange to the west.
Perry Township Schools Superintendent Thomas Little continuously has raised concern about traffic flow and additional hazards that would be faced by transporting students to and from schools in the western part of the township.
One option that was eliminated was a far-sighted cutoff to the east that would link I-69 just south of Whiteland Road and connect with I-65 and then I-74 as the beginning of a large beltway around the nine-county area of central Indiana.
“There are so many factors that we take into consideration when we’re looking at these routes and which route is the most feasible route, one of those being the human impacts,” INDOT specialist LaMar Holliday said in an interview with WTIU television. “When we talk about human impact we’re talking about schools, access for emergency services and homes and people getting access to their homes.”
INDOT is evaluating the environmental, economic impact and cost of the five alternative routes and is expected to announce the approved route for I-69 Section 6 during the first three months of 2017. Final approval by state and federal transportation authorities would not take place until 2018.
And, as Waltz has pointed out numerous times, the state has not allocated any funds for Section 6.
Comments on Section 6 from Martinsville to Indianapolis can be submitted by Dec. 17 by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or using a web form at www.in.gov/indot/projects/i69/2463.htm or by calling 317-881-6408 for an appointment.
The Section 6 project office is at 7847 Waverly Road, off Ind. 37, just south of Ind. 144, open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.