I-69 project boosting counties’ economic outlook

By Mark Myers and Mayor Shannon

A brighter economic future for Morgan and Johnson counties is a step closer after I-69 Section 6 recently reached an important milestone. The Indiana Department of Transportation has filed its Draft Environmental Impact Statement with the federal government.

This is the document that lays out, with specificity, the plan for completing I-69 from the Martinsville to I-465. The federal government now has one year to review the plan and approve or make suggestions for revision.

The draft represents far more, however, than a highway planning document. It is a symbol of the hopes and dreams of the vibrant communities of Johnson and Morgan counties. We are fortunate to be ideally positioned between the economic powerhouse of Indianapolis and the intellectual and cultural hub of Bloomington.

With a highly-skilled workforce and good schools, the Johnson-Morgan area is poised to be the anchor for unparalleled growth in jobs and quality of life in central Indiana. Updated census figures show our two counties to be among the few that are growing in Indiana.

This confirms what independent economic studies project. One study suggests that because of I-69 the total estimated tax value of future development will quintuple in Martinsville, alone.

The plan suggests that 1,400 jobs will be added and more than $140 million in new state and local tax revenue will be available to continue to build the quality of life we are known for. The shift in economic energy to the I-69 counties will translate to improved housing stock, a wider variety of leisure options, an 11-minute reduction in commute time to Indianapolis, and safer, less-congested travel lanes for a families to drive, whether we are moving north or south along the I-69 corridor.

Our local and county governments have been planning for this day for years. Commissioners of both counties, along with first responders, health services executives and educators are prepared to make the most of the I-69 opportunities.

They have provided critical input that has improved the plan and its prospects for delivering on its promise. Our citizens are feeling the excitement. A recent independent poll (Bellwether Research, 902 respondents) shows 70 percent of residents in Johnson, Morgan and southern Marion counties support building the last leg of I-69 as quickly as practicable.

We are proud to join many civic and business organizations in a coalition, I-69 Equals Jobs, that will work across county lines to maximize the upside of the I-69 project. Of course, there will be inconveniences, but the potential for safer travel, good paying jobs and greater connectivity is a result we must bring to fruition. We believe that the decade of the ‘20’s will be the Johnson-Morgan Decade.

Martinsville Mayor Shannon Kohl and Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers are co-chairs of the I69=JOBS initiative. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.