Lift restrictions on planning route for I-69

Daily Journal

During a hearing on a bill to lift a ban on building a new interstate through Perry Township in Marion County, State Rep. John Price, R-Greenwood, made a telling point.

He told members of the House Roads and Transportation Committee that the Indiana Constitution, which was written well before interstates, automobiles or even paved roads, says that legislators don’t determine where roads should or shouldn’t be built. Otherwise roads might be built based on politics, instead of the best course to serve drivers or commerce.

“We would have a patchwork of locally biased infrastructure,” Price said.

A law passed by the General Assembly in 2006 requires that the legislature must grant approval to build a new interstate through the southside township. The primary arguments are that constructing a leg of Interstate 69 along the current route of State Road 37 would be too disruptive to the area’s commerce and would make east-west movement of traffic difficult. State Sen. Brent Waltz and State Rep. Dave Frizzell, who both represent portions of Perry Township and Johnson County, both pushed for that rule along with other Indianapolis lawmakers.

Price’s proposal aims to remove that requirement.

The Indiana Department of Transportation already has begun studying which routes might work best for the final leg of I-69 between Martinsville and Indianapolis. The initial route identified more than 10 years ago was State Road 37. That would take the interstate through northwest Johnson County and through Perry Township to Interstate 465.

Price regularly emphasizes that his bill does not mandate a route for I-69. He wants to leave decisions on the route to the Indiana Department of Transportation, based on cost, environmental and commercial impact, and geography. Ideally, local officials would like the route to follow State Road 37 as envisioned, but Price’s measure steers clear of that decision.

Tellingly, no one from Perry Township, Indianapolis or elsewhere showed up to testify against the proposal. So, we urge the House committee to forward the bill to the full chamber and for the House to approve it and move it along to the Senate.

Restricting the I-69 location is shortsighted, and lifting it would free the experts to lay out the best route possible and move the project another step closer to fruition.

At issue

A state law currently requires legislative approval to build a new interstate highway through Perry Township of Marion County.

Our point

After a hearing produced no substantial support for maintaining the proviso, the Indiana House should approve a bill ending it and move it along to the Senate.