Legislature removes major I-69 roadblock

We are one step closer to the completion of the Interstate 69 extension from Indianapolis to Evansville. But there are many more that must be taken before this economic development ribbon tying Indianapolis, Bloomington, Crane and Evansville is completed.

Last week, Indiana lawmakers approved a bill that would lift restrictions on where the final leg of the I-69 extension can be built. The Indiana Senate voted 31-19 in favor of the measure, which now heads to Gov. Mike Pence for consideration.

Rep. John Price, R-Greenwood, was a sponsor of the bill in the Indiana House.

The bill would revoke a 2004 law that prohibits the highway from passing through Perry Township in southern Marion County.

Opponents consistently have said that allowing the route to replace State Road 37 in the township would cause traffic troubles and hurt businesses along the corridor. But at the same time, having the interstate run through the northwest corner of Johnson County would have significant economic development impact.

Supporters say they want state highway officials to have the option of using that corridor for the I-69 section between Martinsville and Interstate 465.

The stretch of highway under dispute is the sixth and last leg of the half-built 142-mile I-69 extension between Evansville and Indianapolis. The section between Bloomington and Martinsville is under construction. When it reaches that Morgan County community, planners will have to decide how best to proceed the rest of the way to Indianapolis.

It is important to remember that this bill does not mandate a route for the final leg of the I-69 extension. It doesn’t even recommend one. All it does is allow transportation professionals to design the route that will be most effective given the many factors that must be weighed.

In pressing for his bill, Price made the strong argument that decisions about road placement must be placed in the hands of the professionals, rather than leaving them subject to the whim of politics.

We agree strongly and commend Price for guiding the bill through the maze of the legislative process.

We urge Gov. Mike Pence to sign this bill. After that, we hope that INDOT begins a serious examination of routes and that the General Assembly figures out how best to pay for it.

At issue

The Indiana Senate has approved the repeal of a law restricting the route of the final segment of Interstate 69.

Our point

If Gov. Mike Pence signs the bill, professionals will have a freer hand in designing this all-important segment between Martinsville and Indianapolis.