State highway planners have outlined where you would get on and off State Road 37 if it were turned into Interstate 69.
Southside commuters could get on the new interstate at County Road 144 and Smith Valley, County Line and Southport roads. The construction would require expanding the highway, constructing overpasses or underpasses and relocating businesses and homes, and would take years to build.
But first, the Indiana Department of Transportation has to pick a route, and which is the preferred route of the public is unclear.
INDOT has five potential routes to pick from for the next section of Interstate 69, running from Martinsville to Indianapolis. State Road 37 remains one of the routes under consideration. The other routes connect to I-70 or use Mann Road in Morgan County to connect to I-465, bypassing Johnson County altogether. Once complete, I-69 will connect Evansville to Indianapolis.
Nearly 280 residences and 96 businesses between Martinsville and Indianapolis would need to be relocated if State Road 37 were picked, according to a state report.
But about 20 residents who attended an I-69 forum Monday night said the interstate is not needed because there are already enough interstates that cut through central Indiana, and they say there’s not enough money to cover the construction costs. Residents of Johnson and Marion counties are worried about the relocation of homes and businesses if State Road 37 is turned into an interstate.
At meetings this week, state officials unveiled new details about the five possible routes for I-69, including potential interchange locations and access roads. If I-69 takes over State Road 37, possible interchanges in Johnson and Marion counties include intersections with County Road 144, Smith Valley Road, County Line Road and Southport Road before connecting to Interstate 465. Overpasses or underpasses are being considered at Whiteland, Olive Branch, Fairview and Bluff roads in Johnson County and Banta Road and Epler Avenue in Indianapolis.
About 26 miles of State Road 37 would need to be reconstructed in order to turn the highway into an interstate, according to an INDOT report. About 1,056 acres of residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural land would be impacted if the interstate follows State Road 37 from Martinsville to I-465, the report said.
The four other routes would impact from 1,430 to 1,556 acres.
During the coming year, the state will study the possible interchanges, overpasses, underpasses and access roads for all the routes to make sure that is the best place for traffic to get onto the interstate, according to I-69 Section 6 project manager Sarah Rubin. Before the state can finalize the plan for the new I-69 route, staff members must look at traffic studies to predict where the most heavily traveled roads will be through the year 2045, she said.
Cost estimates for each route also will be finalized, she said.
In the first quarter of 2017, INDOT will announce the top route for Section 6 of I-69. That route is expected to be formally approved by the state and the Federal Highway Administration in 2018.
Dozens of residents from Johnson, Morgan and Marion counties shared comments with state officials Monday night at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis. Most of the people who spoke have homes or businesses in Perry Township and expressed concern about how the change to State Road 37 would impact local residents.
For Johnson County residents, if State Road 37 becomes I-69, the road will see more traffic in the northwest corner of the county, and businesses or homes could be relocated or torn down.
If I-69 were built on State Road 37, the White River Township fire station off Smith Valley Road would need to be relocated, said White River Township Fire Department Chief Jeremy Pell. The department purchased 2.86 acres of land on Morgantown Road for $195,000 in April 2014, Pell said. If the state does decide to turn State Road 37 into I-69, the Morgantown Road land can be the new site for a new fire station, he said.
Residents who live near State Road 37 already hear traffic on the highway and are concerned how bad the traffic noise would become if the road were turned into an interstate. White River Township residents Jeff and Kelly Parsons said they already have considered moving away from the area.
“We just moved into a house about two years ago, and we live in between Fairview (Road) and Smith Valley (Road),” Jeff Parsons said. “We can hear the 37 traffic now. Our biggest concern is will we stay or will we go?”
If the state installs noise barriers along the interstate, Kelly Parsons thinks the traffic will still be loud when she walks upstairs, she said.
“We don’t want to hear the noise,” Kelly Parsons said.
State, city and school officials spoke out against I-69, including state Sen. Brent Waltz, who said he has opposed the interstate for more than 12 years, when he first joined the state Senate.
“I have been a die-hard opponent of State Road 37 being used for I-69 from the beginning. I still am,” Waltz said. “It is going to turn State Road 37 into basically a parking lot during rush hour.”
Even when the new route is announced in a few years, the state won’t be able to cover the cost of construction, Waltz said.
“The good news I can tell you is that the state of Indiana does not have any money to pay for it,” Waltz said. “There’s no discussion at this point on how to fund Section 6. So it will be several years even if something is approved before the taxpayers would be able to pay for it.”
Perry Township Schools Superintendent Tom Little asked state officials to consider the safety of children when deciding on the ultimate route.
“We have 100 bus routes every day that cross 37. I have over 400 children that drive to school every day that cross 37,” Little said. “If that was your child at 6:45 in the morning, driving across 37, would you like them taking that route?”
The Indiana Department of Transportation is asking for residents to write, email and call in with comments about the five potential routes for Interstate 69.
Comments are due by Dec. 17.
Here is what topics the state is looking for comments on:
- Preliminary alternative routes for I-69
- The potential interchanges, overpasses and underpasses
- Local access roads
- Environmental resources
- Future development in the area
How to comment:
- Write an email to the Indiana Department of Transportation Section 6 office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Call the Section 6 project office at 317-881-6408.
- Stop in to the Section 6 project office at 7847 Waverly Road, Martinsville. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Here is a look at what’s next for the Interstate 69 project:
From now through Dec. 17: Residents can submit comments about the five remaining routes for I-69, the possible interchange locations and local access roads.
2016: The Indiana Department of Transportation will look at how many lanes the interstate will need, study the interchange locations and finalize cost estimates for each route.
First quarter of 2017: INDOT will select one of the five remaining routes as the top choice for I-69.
2018: The state and Federal Highway Administration will approve the I-69 route.