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Editorial: Regional approach may help I-69 interchange

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The completion of Interstate 69 between Bloomington and Indianapolis is several years away. But now is the time to think seriously about long-term development at the interchanges along the route.

That’s exactly what Bargersville is doing with respect to the intersection of State Road 37 and State Road 144. And just as importantly, town officials are taking a regional approach to planning by engaging their counterparts in Morgan County to create an integrated vision for what is likely to become one of the most important points — and possibly the key interchange — on the route between Interstate 465 and Martinsville.

Without a coordinated approach to planning, the result will be a hodgepodge of truck stops, fast-food restaurants and motels.

The intersection is located in Johnson County, but travel about a quarter-mile west on State Road 144 or less than a mile south on State Road 37 and you cross into Morgan County.

The communities have similar visions of the surrounding area becoming more than just an off-ramp surrounded by truck stops and instead envision office buildings and industrial complexes. Officials haven’t met yet to discuss exactly what they want and where they’d like it, and the two communities will have to address one major factor — sewers — before any kind of development can begin.

“There is water, but there are not sewers in that area. Before development could really happen in that area, we’d need that,” Bargersville Town Council President Rowana Umbarger said.

The intersection is about six miles from Bargersville’s wastewater plant, making running sewer lines to the intersection unfeasible, Umbarger said. A new treatment plant would need to be built, and she expects the town and Morgan County to partner on the plant’s construction and operation.

Sewers are key for attracting development, Morgan County planning and zoning director Kenny Hale said.

“You’ve got to get that. Once you get it, they’re going to come. Until you get it, you can’t handle anything out there,” he said.

Officials from the two communities have discussed the issue but haven’t settled on any plan about what would be built, how much it would cost and who would maintain it.

Once sewers are provided, both communities expect the interstate exit will be an attractive site for businesses.

Officials want to have similar zoning and development guidelines between Johnson and Morgan counties, so that the types of buildings and businesses built in each county fit together and don’t conflict.

“If you put an industrial zoning classification next to some kind of commercial or light residential you’re going to have a problem. We’ve got to work together,” Hale said.

As we said, the eventual I-69 interchange at State Road 144 will be one of the most important points immediately south of Indianapolis. By taking a regional approach to planning, officials can bring about orderly development that will best utilize the site’s geographical position.

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