Pharos-Tribune

October 24, 2013

Open road: Officials celebrate highway opening

Officials celebrate Hoosier Heartland opening

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
Pharos-Tribune

---- — The conclusion of a more than 30-year state project was celebrated in Logansport Wednesday as state and local officials gathered to praise and reflect on the new Ind. 25 Hoosier Heartland Corridor.

In 1982, the state first began exploring the feasibility of replacing the old, two-lane Ind. 25 with a four-lane, limited access highway that would connect Ind. 69 in Fort Wayne to U.S. 65 in Lafayette. After funding was secured and various segments of the highway opened over the decades, the final stretch of the project from Delphi to Logansport was opened Oct. 18.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, state and local officials and community members of the three counties the highway crosses gathered to celebrate the conclusion of the road Wednesday at Ivy Tech Community College and the Logansport/Cass County Airport. Those who spoke said the new highway will make travel safer, faster and lead to economic development.

Many of the speakers praised former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Major Moves plan, which in 2006 leased the Indiana Toll Road to two foreign companies for 75 years for $3.8 billion. This sum was distributed toward highway projects across the state, including the new Ind. 25.

Addressing the crowd of hundreds at Ivy Tech Wednesday, State Rep. Bill Friend recalled how before Major Moves, the highway could only be funded and completed one section at a time.

“Without Major Moves, our struggles would be continuing,” he said.

Daniels could not attend the event, as he was in Washington, D.C.

Federal funding for the project was secured through the efforts of Steve Buyer, former U.S. representative for Indiana’s fourth and fifth congressional districts.

Buyer said it took more than money to finish the highway, particularly the unity he felt was established across party lines.

“Political affiliation didn’t matter,” the Republican said, going on to praise the collaboration from a former Democratic Indiana governor, the late Frank O’Bannon.

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski reflected on the 30 years it took to build the highway and said he is looking forward to the development it is expected to bring in the future.

“Today, we’re here to celebrate the next phase of that vision,” he said.

Citing Indiana’s central location in the country as being advantageous for economic development, Pence said the new highway can only improve the possibilities.

“I often say I think roads mean jobs,” he said. “... If you’re going to be the Crossroads of America, you better have the roads to back it up. This road will mean jobs for this generation and the next.”

Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin said the city has already begun efforts in this regard by developing an economic development outreach campaign.

“It will bring change to every community along the corridor,” he said. “Without the highway, this wouldn’t be as likely. ... It’s going to create even more work for us, and that’s what we’re happy about.”

Lee Hoard, former Delphi mayor and Carroll County sheriff, recalled times as sheriff having to tell people their loved ones were killed in an accident and praised the new road for having a safer design.

As criticisms over the road surfaced in the days following its opening, including the lack of signage, increased traffic near the Tyson plant, industrial park and Clymers and several accidents, officials say improvements are continuing to be made.

“It’s a $320 million project,” Franklin said. “There will be some oversights, but I’m confident they’ll be corrected.”

Although the road is open for traffic, Indiana Department of Transportation Project Manager Jim Earl said the road wouldn’t be completely finished until the spring.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com. Follow him: @PharosMAK