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October 28, 2013

KITCHELL: Hoosier Heartland: The last of bipartisan projects?

Many people have come up to me or phone me over the years to express one opinion about the four-lane highway that just opened last week south of Logansport.

The opinion was this: It will never happen.

I haven’t heard from any of those people for a few years now. The Hoosier Heartland Corridor, once a pipe dream of industrialists, local public officials and Chamber of Commerce executives in a band of cities across northern Indiana, is a reality.

While the next Rand-McNally maps of Indiana will show a wider band of highway from Logansport to Lafayette, what won’t show up is the years of frustration, meetings, funding, letter writing and stories about the concept of linking two of Indiana’s largest cities. It made sense because so many county seats where supplier industries were located in the 1980s had no four-lane link to the rest of the country’s transportation network. Forget the fact that our state motto was “The Crossroads of America.” Our reality then was that Logansport, Delphi, Wabash and Huntington were tucked away along the backroad of Indiana.

This was an unlikely project from the start. While the federal highway system had connected Fort Wayne with Logansport, the heavily traveled road from Logansport to Lafayette was merely a state highway that developed a clogged artery every time Purdue students left en massed for Christmas or summer vacation or football fans from Fort Wayne to Lafayette made their way to Ross-Ade Stadium at Purdue. When Ohio State or Michigan fans made their way to West Lafayette, it only added to the congestion. A half-mile stretch with a passing lane in northern Tippecanoe County was the only relief to some motorists who familiarized themselves with bumper stickers and license plates they saw a few feet in front of them for the better part of 40 miles.

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