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Editorial: Commerce connector not something we need

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In 2006, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels proposed the Indiana Commerce Connector, an interstate-style highway that would form an outer loop around Indianapolis and cut through the heart of Johnson County. The next year, in the face of heated opposition, he dropped the idea.

That should have been the end of the matter. But now a statewide business group made up of manufacturing, warehousing and logistics companies wants to try to bring back the project because it would cut transportation times for their products and reduce traffic congestion around Indianapolis.

So just like one of those creatures from a 1930s horror movie, this monster has returned.

The logistics group Conexus Indiana and a newly formed central Indiana logistics council both argue that a new outer loop could improve shipping service in the region as well as relieve traffic on Interstate 465, which would benefit commuters, Conexus Indiana vice president David Holt said.

Conexus Indiana researches ideas that would benefit businesses that rely on transporting products and will work to promote the highway concept to statewide organizations, businesses and residents. Holt said the goal would be to share information about the project and show its benefits, with the hope that business organizations from the state would carry the project to state legislators, who would need to approve and fund the construction.

Right now, the plan to revive the Indiana Commerce Connector project is just talk. The state has no plans to fund or build another loop outside I-465 at this time, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.

That’s the way it should stay — no more than talk.

Daniels proposed the connector as a toll road that would start at Interstate 69 near Pendleton northeast of Indianapolis. The road would run through Hancock, Shelby, Johnson and Morgan counties and connect to Interstate 70 southwest of Indianapolis. In Johnson County, the road likely would have run through an area a few miles south of Franklin, cutting through thousands of acres of farmland.

The plan being talked about by Conexus Indiana likely would follow a similar path but extend all the way to Interstate 65 northwest of Indianapolis.

Conexus Indiana says a commerce connector would help central Indiana businesses by giving trucks another route to get between Indiana’s multiple interstates and avoid areas where traffic bottlenecks at interchanges with I-465. Trucks heading in and out of warehouses and factories located in areas such as Plainfield, Franklin or Fishers would be able to save time by traveling around Indianapolis, Holt said.

But the benefit for Johnson County would be marginal. Semitrailer rigs avoiding Indianapolis might stop for fuel or repairs at a truck stop, but that’s about it.

The price would come in the form of the loss of valuable and irreplaceable farmland.

Holt is familiar with the commerce connector’s history and the opposition it faced. The original plan was proposed suddenly and didn’t include many details about the benefits, costs and process of building the highway that businesses, landowners and lawmakers wanted to hear, he said. Conexus Indiana will put together that information so that people can learn as much as possible about the idea before they’re asked to consider spending tax dollars to build it.

But that support most likely will come from outside Johnson County, not from local residents.

The highway would provide little benefit for the county and would exact a significant cost. The idea should be dropped now before any time or money is wasted developing it.

Just like that 1930s movie monster, someone needs to put a stake in the heart of this idea and kill it permanently.

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