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April 7, 2014

Groups hope to revive outer beltway

FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) — A group of central Indiana manufacturers and warehousing companies is pushing to revive a proposal for a highway that would link the region’s major interstates and communities.

Logistics group Conexus Indiana and a newly formed central Indiana logistics council hope to spark renewed interest in the Indiana Commerce Connector, which then-Gov. Mitch Daniels proposed the project in 2006.

Daniels dropped the plan after it proved unpopular in the counties where the highway would have been constructed.

But the commerce connector’s new proponents argue that building it promises to improve shipping service in the region by giving trucks another route to get between Indiana’s multiple interstates.

Conexus Indiana vice president David Holt said the connector would also relieve traffic congestion by allowing trucks to avoid areas where traffic bottlenecks at interchanges with Interstate 465, which encircles Indianapolis.

Holt said 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 and would produce less pollution because they wouldn’t be sitting in traffic.

“It would also have an impact of lowering repair costs on those particular interstates and a lot of positive impacts. For a distributor, time is money. You want to be able to move a product faster and efficiently,” Holt told the Daily Journal.

Although the project isn’t a priority for the Indiana Department of Transportation, and there’s no money set aside for it, INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said the connector highway remains on a list of possible future INDOT projects.

The highway was originally proposed as a toll road starting at Interstate 69 near Pendleton northeast of Indianapolis and running through Hancock, Shelby, Johnson and Morgan counties before linking up with Interstate 70 southwest of Indianapolis. Gov. Daniels dropped the idea in 2007 after landowners in multiple counties opposed the plan and the $1 billion project struggled to gain support among state lawmakers.

Charles Canary, a former Johnson County council member, said the commerce connector was overwhelmingly unpopular among the county’s landowners and that hasn’t changed.

Canary, who farms land south of Franklin, said a new multiple-lane highway would take away thousands of acres of farmland and lower the value of adjacent properties.

“Why do we have to go out and destroy property? And I mean that. Destroy. They’re going to destroy the property. The land, it will be worth nothing,” he said.

Holt said the initial plan for the commerce connector didn’t include many details about the proposal, including its benefits. He said Conexus Indiana will compile 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.

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