State officials will decide by the end of this year where Interstate 69 should be built, and State Road 37 is just one of more than a dozen options.
Currently, the state is considering 14 routes, connecting the final leg of I-69 from Martinsville to Indianapolis. All but four routes bypass Johnson County.
When I-69 was originally pitched in 2004, the plan was to use the route of State Road 37, which passes through the northwest portion of the county, and connect to Interstate 465. But since more than 10 years have passed since the initial environmental impact studies were done, additional routes are being considered, including connecting State Road 37 east to Interstate 65 across Johnson County or going west of White River to State Road 67 or Interstate 70 through Morgan County.
The route of the interstate has long been a debated topic. Legislation was approved nine years ago that would ban the highway from running through Perry Township on the southside. This year, new legislation lifted that ban, allowing the state to decide the best route for the interstate. With construction of the final leg of I-69 still at least three years away, the state is working on that decision now.
In February, the state hosted a public meeting to gather residents’ opinions, and the results were announced during a second public meeting Monday night. Of 133 comments received, 40 percent of people thought I-69 should be built along State Road 37. The rest wanted the interstate to be located elsewhere, including 34 percent who want the I-69 corridor moved west of State Road 37.
The state hopes to make the decision on which route to use by the fourth quarter of this year, Indiana Department of Transportation project manager Sarah Rubin said. Another public meeting will be conducted this fall to announce the selected route.
Residents remain split on using State Road 37. Some of the 125 people who attended an INDOT meeting Monday were concerned about losing their homes or businesses, while others thought it would provide an economic boost for the area, especially White River Township.
State Rep. John Price, R-Greenwood, who sponsored the legislation lifting the Perry Township ban, reminded residents to consider the overall vision for the future of Morgan County and Johnson County and the economic impact the interstate could provide.
“I think we’ve got to look at the future,” Price said. “It’s going to have an economic impact, as far as opening that corridor up.”
Trying to connect across the White River would cost additional money, he said, so continuing on the current route of State Road 37 is the logical choice financially.
“It’s going to be the best use of the taxpayers’ money,” he said.
Sue Likens, who lives on Mount Pleasant Center Street in White River Township, would be forced to move if I-69 were built along State Road 37.
“I think it’s wrong,” Likens said. “They’ve got other alternatives. Why do they need to take our houses?”
The state has not discussed what properties would be needed if I-69 were built on State Road 37, but one homeowner had to split his farmland in half when State Road 37 was built. Now, John Herman and his two sons are at risk of losing their homes again if State Road 37 is widened for an interstate, he said.
His ancestors built the original farmhouse in 1879, and he wants to keep the family home intact, he said. Other homes and businesses would be forced to move or close if the interstate continues on State Road 37, he said.
Herman said he fought against State Road 37 becoming I-69 more than 10 years ago and is prepared to do it again.
“It’s not a smart move,” Herman said. “If they put it on the west side of the river, there’s less development there.”
But if the state does not choose State Road 37, others are concerned about losing the chance for economic development in White River Township and Perry Township.
Center Grove school board member Rob Richards wants residents to think of the bigger picture, including future development in the area.
“If we don’t go this time it’s never going to happen for White River Township,” he said.
Upgrading State Road 37 into an interstate could make traveling safer, some residents said.
Traffic lights would be removed, and the speed limit would be increased. Residents already drive as though they’re on an interstate, White River Township resident Steve Best said. He travels on State Road 37 daily for work, and traffic is already terrible, particularly near Southport Road and I-465, he said.
“People drive (State Road) 37 as though it’s an interstate,” Best said. “People are still going to drive the route that makes sense to them.”
Before the next meeting later this year, state officials will continue gathering information, including studying traffic, ruling out potential alternatives, conducting field work along State Road 37 to see how the road has changed since it was last studied more than 10 years ago and reviewing the public comments that are turned in by June 2.
The Indiana Department of Transportation is gathering comments, questions and concerns from residents about where Interstate 69 should be located to connect Martinsville to Indianapolis. All comments submitted to INDOT are due by June 2. Here is how to have your voice heard:
- Stop by the project office: 7847 Waverly Road, Martinsville. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Call 881-6408.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Visit the website at 69indyevn.org (Click on section 6).
The state specifically wants public input regarding the alternative routes and goals for I-69, including:
- Improving transportation and accessibility between Martinsville and Indianapolis, including reducing travel time
- Reduce future traffic congestion between Martinsville and Indianapolis
- Improve traffic safety
- Support growth in economic activity
- Allow freight or semitrailer-trucks to travel more easily on I-69
- Support intermodal connectivity, such as moving supplies or goods from a semitrailer to a cargo ship or train
During the last public meeting in February, residents suggested 27 routes for Interstate 69 to connect Martinsville to Indianapolis. The Indiana Department of Transportation whittled the list to 14 possible routes, including State Road 37. The other alternative routes are broken into three sections:
- Western routes, using State Road 67 or Interstate 70 to connect to Interstate 465
- Eastern routes, connecting State Road 37 to Interstate 65
- Central routes, using roads west of Johnson County, instead of State Road 37
The Indiana Department of Transportation will host another public meeting later this year. Until the next public meeting is announced, the state will:
- Review public comments
- Conduct field work on State Road 37 to see what has changed since the initial environmental study was done more than 10 years ago
- Further investigate alternative routes
- Study the traffic patterns on State Road 37