They don’t know exactly when the construction crews will move north and build Interstate 69 through Johnson County, but local planners envision restaurants and grocery stores at the new exits that will come with the highway.
The state has been talking about linking Evansville and Bloomington with an interstate since the 1970s, and construction began in 2008. The Indiana Department of Transportation is slated to convert State Road 37 in Johnson County into a section of I-69 within the next five to 10 years, according to past timelines. The highway department hasn’t completed environmental studies or bought land in Johnson County yet, and when it will isn’t clear, spokesman Will Wingfield said.
Previous time frames for the Johnson County part of the project could change because the two prior phases, between Crane and Bloomington and between Bloomington and Martinsville, are ahead of schedule, Wingfield said.
Bargersville, which will have an I-69 interchange at County Road 144 if all goes as planned, is hiring a consultant within the next few weeks to study the kind of sewer infrastructure the town will need to serve future development, such as fast-food restaurants and hotels, along the highway.
The exit at County Road 144 will be a new entrance to the community, and because of that Bargersville might require builders to aim for a clean look, with few signs and any self-storage facilities set back off the road, town council president Ken Zumstein said.
A commercial development already is planned for the southwest corner of the future interchange, and town officials hope fast food restaurants, hotels and medical office buildings will be constructed there, he said.
Both Bargersville and the county are planning for the highway to attract commercial development, particularly at the three planned exits. The county currently has four interstate interchanges, all of them on Interstate 65, at County Line Road and Main Street in Greenwood, at Whiteland Road in the county and at State Road 44 in Franklin. An additional 65 exit at Worthsville Road is in the works.
The White River Township Fire Department will have to move its headquarters at 850 S. Mullinix Road because it will be in the path of the I-69 project. The fire department is buying property on Morgantown Road north of Smith Valley Road in anticipation of having to move to the headquarters.
The county land along the interstate route through White River Township is already zoned for commercial projects such as grocery stores and restaurants. The county’s land-use plan for property around its two future interchanges at Smith Valley and County Line roads also calls for commercial development.
“It’s really kind of a broad canvas on which to put development,” county planning and zoning director David Hittle said.
The county won’t do much to control how the area develops, beyond road work to make sure streets can eventually handle traffic coming off the new highway. Officials expect land west of the Smith Valley Road exit to stay green space because it’s in a floodplain caused in part by the White River, Hittle said. That area would be difficult to develop, he said. Much of the land east of the coming I-69 in the county already has homes built on it, he said.
Bargersville officials will be more involved in development. They have said a new sewer plant will be necessary for the interchange area to develop, but the consultant will advise the town within the next few months what needs to be built, Zumstein said. As builders approach the town with projects, the town would likely partner with them to pay for sewer lines, he said.
Planning ahead should help the town and developers avoid mistakes, such as installing sewer pipes too small to serve the growth the highway exits are expected to bring, he said.
Sewer is the only utility the town doesn’t yet provide to the area. The town’s one-year-old water plant is large enough to serve new development, he said.