August 14, 2013

KITCHELL: Heartland completion will define lines


---- — A sign that says “Main Street” in many communities reflects the primary artery.

That’s not been the case in Logansport, which has the peculiarity of a Main Street across the river from its downtown. But East Main Street has been taking on more of the role of being a main street since the completion of the Ivy Tech State College campus at the south edge of the city.

When the four-lane link of the Hoosier Heartland Corridor is completed later this year, the impact of the completion on traffic patterns will define more than the name of the street. Traffic patterns have a way of shaping retail development. Highways also have a way of making some residential areas more appealing and others less.

One of the unusual things about driving the Hoosier Heartland around Logansport is that there is no gas station, fast food restaurant or lodging visible from the highway. With the completion of the highway from Lafayette to Fort Wayne nearing, that’s likely about to change.

What we really don’t know yet is how traffic flow in and out of the city will change, or if the Heartland will succeed in bypassing Logansport so well that people driving by won’t bother exiting here. One of the contributing factors to avoiding Logansport is that most of the five possible choices for drivers unfamiliar with the city are not well-lit at night. Each of the five have both strong points and drawbacks:

1. West Market Street. This could be much busier because it already has been widened and has accommodating turning radii for large trucks. It also has the aforementioned fast food and gasoline criterion, but lacks lodging. It’s a bit off the beaten path for traffic on Ind. 25 but the flat land surrounding it is a plus for developers.

2. Burlington Avenue. This has long been viewed as the new main artery to Logansport that Broadway and Market became when U.S. 24 was synonymous with those streets. The split-grade interchange being completed will instantly add traffic to Burlington and Ind. 29, but a narrow stretch of Burlington from that interchange to Mildred Street will have to be addressed at some point. The narrowing northbound lanes of Burlington under the Norfolk Southern bridge is another matter. This is the most direct way to get traffic from the Heartland to downtown.

3. 18th Street. Perhaps the most crucial vote on this option came in the 1970s when county officials, by one vote, opted not to build a bridge over the Wabash River long enough to span the old Pennsylvania Railroad yards. The remaining tracks there as well as the busy Norfolk Southern crossing make this exit less appealing for visitors, not to mention the lack of signage for downtown and the high school.

4. Cass Station Road. County officials have done their part to upgrade and widen it. It represents the best access to the east end where there is lodging, and the most restaurants and retail in the city. It, too, has a rail crossing issue, and Logansport Road from Cass Station to the city limits is a dark place to be if you’re new to the city and looking for a place to stay or something to eat.

5. Logansport Road. Aptly referred to as Business 24 because it once was U.S. 24, Logansport Road is the farthest exit from downtown Logansport. It is convenient for drivers who just turned off U.S. 31 to take U.S. 24 west. The exit has flashers, but Business 24 literally starts at the county line and winds – and winds – and winds to the east end and downtown Logansport.

At one point, former Cass County Engineer Jodi Coblentz also studied the possibility of a new road from the Heartland north to Mall Road. This is an option that may some day get a second look, not only because it would be a more direct link to the east end from the Heartland, but it would create a new commerce corridor that could add assessed value not only to the east end, but the city and county. Much of the growth in Logansport and Cass County in the past 50 years has been from Cass Plaza east with the Eel River on the north forcing development further east.

One of the great adages of our country is that “The road to success is always under construction.” The construction of the Hoosier Heartland will be over soon, but how successfully the community negotiates its opening with its existing traffic patterns is an issue that is still in progress.

Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at