by Amie Sites
A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked a milestone four decades in the making Wednesday morning.
Antique cars, semis, fire trucks and police cars lined the new Ind. 25 in preparation for the Delphi and Lafayette segment of the Heartland Highway opening to traffic. A caravan, limited to the first 160 vehicles, gathered for the drive to Lafayette and back.
The new Ind. 25 will be a 31-mile, four-lane, limited access divided highway. The project is divided into four segments between Lafayette and Logansport. Along that stretch of highway, INDOT’s consultants are in varying stages of design and construction.
Gov. Mitch Daniels, former state Sen. Tom Weatherwax, former first lady Judy O’Bannon and Delphi Mayor Randy Strasser were among the crowd gathered south of the new highway’s intersection with U.S. 421.
Daniels accepted a gift, including a Purdue University shirt, from Strasser before speaking. He said no one was happier to see the highway open than he was.
Daniels mentioned that he heard an unnamed professor say the money put toward the highway would disappear.
“The money won’t disappear — we’re standing on it,” Daniels said. “I hope it’s obvious that this was the right thing to do.”
Weatherwax said that if it weren’t for the Major Moves program funded by Daniels’ lease of the Indiana Toll Road, the project wouldn’t have been possible.
Julia Leahy, Carroll County Chamber of Commerce executive director, said that the highway would create a lot of great opportunities for economic development, but she said the project was about more than economics.
“We’ve lost so many lives traveling on Ind. 25 from Delphi to Lafayette,” Leahy said. “The new segment is going to be a safer, quicker and easier way for people around the regional area to travel.”
Laura Walls, executive director of Carroll County economic development corporation, is charged with supporting industry and attracting new companies.
“The impact on Carroll County has the potential to be significant,” Walls said. “With four lanes so close to Interstate 65, we know there is some commercial, industrial opportunities there.”
Walls said that the road would open up transportation and manufacturing opportunities specifically for suppliers who want to move to the area. She said she would love seeing companies in Illinois come to the area because of its location between Chicago and Indianapolis.
Hoosier Heartland board members Clara Rider and Jake Jaquay said they had been involved with the project for years.
“It’s so thrilling,” Rider said. “I’m glad to have worked on and supported it, and it’s great for the community.”
Will Wingfield, of INDOT, said that the ceremony was an experience.
“It was a great turnout,” Wingfield said. “I’ve been able to speak to folks who have worked on this project for decades.”
Many people from Logansport were in attendance including community development director Chris Armstrong, Logansport City Councilman Bop Bishop, Cass County Councilman Ralph Anderson and former Mayor Mike Fincher.
Daniels talked about the dream that started decades ago with a plan for a four-lane link from Lafayette to Fort Wayne along the routes of Ind. 25 and U.S. 24. The final stretch linking Lafayette and Logansport is due for completion by the end of next year.
“It will be great for local communities, companies and economy,” Daniels said. “It’s on schedule and it’s under budget.”
• Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.