State lawmakers are preparing to debate and discuss a proposal that would help decide whether Interstate 69 could pass through the southside and Johnson County.

The proposal by State Rep. John Price, who represents parts of Johnson County, would remove a restriction that prohibits I-69 from running through Perry Township in southern Marion County, which lawmakers approved in 2006.

If the bill passes, the Indiana Department of Transportation would be free to decide where the interstate should be built, based on an environmental study, Price said.

Price’s proposal has to get a hearing before a House of Representatives committee that debates state road and transportation issues. He has met with the committee chairman and expects the bill to get a hearing within the next two weeks. The committee then would decide whether to send the bill to the full House for a vote, to gather additional testimony and evidence or to drop the bill altogether.

The proposal has opponents, including other lawmakers who represent parts of Johnson County and who helped pass the ban on the interstate in Perry Township.

Right now, state law prohibits a new interstate from running through Perry Township, which borders the northwest portion of Johnson County. With that restriction, I-69 could not follow the path of State Road 37 through the southside, meaning it also would not run near businesses in Johnson County.

Price has said that expanding the interstate along State Road 37 would give businesses in Greenwood, Whiteland and Franklin an advantage because they’d have more access to interstate traffic.

Price’s proposal doesn’t specify where the interstate should go. Instead, it lifts the restriction on constructing the interstate through Perry Township. The goal of the bill is to ensure the state isn’t restricted if officials decide the State Road 37 route makes the most sense, he said.

“Let them do their job, and wherever they see the road needs to go, that’s where it needs to go,” Price said. “I think it’s the right thing to do, and I’m going to continue to fight for that.”

The bill will face opposition in both the House and Senate. State Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, authored the original bill that banned running a new interstate through Perry Township, and she said she will fight to keep it in place.

Miller said she believes that running I-69 through Indianapolis will hurt homes and businesses along the route. Building the new interstate farther west, near the Indianapolis International Airport, makes more sense, she said.

The law blocking an interstate through Perry Township has been around for nine years, and now is an odd time to try to change it, Miller said.

The state can still plan to run I-69 wherever it wants, just not through Indianapolis, she said.

Miller and other state lawmakers have said they’re concerned that the last leg of the new interstate would disrupt traffic for residents and businesses in the northern part of Johnson County and in Perry Township.

But Price said the state needs freedom when planning for the sixth, and final phase, of the I-69 project, and state lawmakers shouldn’t dictate where a road can and cannot go.

No final decisions have been made about whether to run I-69 along State Road 37, though that is the path the state has been considering for years.

Construction won’t happen until 2017 at the earliest, and before the project begins the state needs to conduct the two-year environmental study. During the study, engineers will find the best route for the interstate and complete design work.

The state also would need to find funding for the project.

At a glance

Here’s what you need to know about House Bill 1036:

What it would do: Allow for the option of construction of I-69 through Perry Township. No routes for the final stretch of the interstate project have been decided, and the bill seeks to give the Indiana Department of Transportation the option of merging the interstate with State Road 37.

Interstate construction through Perry Township has been prohibited since 2006

Bill sponsor: State Rep. John Price, of Greenwood

What happens now: Price expects his bill will receive a hearing from the roads and transportation committee within the next two weeks.

Pull Quote

“Let them do their job; and wherever they see the road needs to go, that’s where it needs to go.”

State Rep. John Price, R-Greenwood

Pull Quote

The law blocking an interstate through Perry Township has been around for nine years, and now is an odd time to try to change it.

State Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis