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Mid-States Corridor Study Moves Ahead Despite Opposition

The proposed Mid-States Corridor project is moving ahead through the paper stages even though it is increasingly seeing more opposition.

The project has gone through the Tier One Environmental study that laid out a proposed route and scope of work. Now proposals are being taken for the Tier Two study that would further define where the road connecting Indianapolis and Rockport will run and how large it will be.

In Indiana, the plan is to upgrade U.S. 231 from the William Natcher Bridge over the Ohio River to Jasper, then put a new road around the east side of Jasper to I-69 at Crane.

Other routes, like one that went around the west side of Jasper and connected into I-69 in southern Daviess County. That decision added 20 miles of new road to the project and took it through Loogootee.

“I know at one time there was an interest here in having it connect in southern Daviess County, but the state decided on this route,” said Bob Grewe, executive director for the Daviess County Economic Development Corportation. “They are doing some further analysis on how they are going to go around Loogootee.”

That northern section of the proposed roadway, from Jasper to Crane is receiving little support from local residents. Loogootee Mayor Noel Harty told the state during hearings before the route was announced that his community did not want the road.

“Almost everyone I talk to is against it. The economic impact, the city would suffer. We would lose homes and that would mean less tax base. We would also lose farm ground. People need to eat. There are 80% against it in our area,” said Harty.

Among those opponents is Jim Arvin, a part-time resident with a home in Rutherford Township. He calls the construction proposal ludicrous.

“A new highway from the Dubois-Spencer County line made no sense to me. U.S.231 is already there. It has been constantly upgraded and improved. It could use some truck passing lanes and other things to improve it, but a new 4-lane highway or a new super-two highway parallel to 231 and I-69 made no sense,” said Arvin. “As I listen to the people in Martin and Daviess County I couldn’t understand why this thing is being pushed through when there is no need for it. In every meeting I attended 95% of the people were opposed to it.”

The road is being backed by a coalition of Jasper-based businesses that have long sought better transportation access. They have utilized a law put in place by U.S. Senator Mike Braun when he was in the Indiana legislature that allows locally based groups to petition for development of major highway projects.

The road is also being touted as an alternative route south out of Indianapolis that would allow through traffic to avoid Louisville by taking I-69 to Crane then south to the Natcher Bridge and onto some upgraded Kentucky Parkways that eventually tie back into I-65 at Bowling Green.

Arvin says he feels that a billion-dollar highway is too big of an ask by the industries.

“When I saw the farm land and the houses that would be lost. When I saw that farms that have been around for 150 years would be torn up then I became opposed to that,” he said. “I think they are asking for too much. If the need is more direct access to I 69 then it would come up the west side of Jasper then go north. To get from Jasper to I-69 they are going to build a billion-dollar highway to save 10 minutes of travel time. That’s not worth it.”

As the project continues to be studied there are still some unanswered questions. One is what the new road will look like through Martin County.

“It still seems unclear what they are going to build,” said Harty. “It’s a whole new highway. It’s a whole new road. I think if they came in with a super-two roadway that improves what we have, that might be something people would support.”

Arvin says he believes the community could much more easily support an upgraded U.S. 231 extending the widening and other improvements that have been done to the roadway.

“It is not the hard driving road it was in the 60s and 70s. It’s a nice upgraded road now and they want to abandon it,” he said. “They are asking for way too much. Why not spend $100-million and they can upgrade U.S. 231 from the White River north.”

The other thing the Tier Two study will try to answer is what route the road should take at Loogootee. Currently, there are four proposals. One that runs to the west of town. One that follows the current footprint through the middle of town and two that extend out to the hills on the east side.

“If they build a bypass around Loogootee no one will get off and stop there. Thousands of acres of farmland and forests are going to be razed to get paved over,” said Arvin. “They should be looking at a no-build option because no one wants the road.”

State officials are currently accepting engineering proposals for the Tier Two Study. Work on study should begin next year. The study is expected to take a couple of years to complete.

In the meantime, opponents like Arvin are going to continue rattling cages trying to find a way to put the brakes on a road that is becoming increasingly unpopular.

“My intent is to get people to think about this and talk about this and get riled up. We should be able to fight back against the powers that are pushing this,” said Arvin. “The population is against this road. When there is a meeting there are more opposed. They just are not being listened to.”

Source: Washington Times Herald