Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 21, 2013

Long road nears end

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Area governmental officials joined last year in marking a milestone toward completion of the long-awaited Hoosier Heartland.

Antique cars, semis, fire trucks and police cars lined up on an October morning in 2012 in preparation for the opening of the segment from Delphi to Lafayette. It was a great moment.

Way too many lives had been lost along the old stretch of Ind. 25 from Delphi to Lafayette. The drive along the new four-lane highway is now considerably faster and safer.

The next segment of the Heartland — between Logansport and Delphi — will open in phases between Sept. 15 and late October.

Another celebration is in order.

Area business leaders and elected officials have been working for decades to make this dream a reality. A group called the Hoosier Heartland Industrial Corridor Inc. campaigned for decades both in Indiana and in Washington to secure the funding to complete the $213 million project.

There were naysayers. State leaders told the highway’s backers years ago the only way the project would ever be built was as a toll road, but the supporters kept at it, pushing elected leaders and fighting to build the highway a segment at a time.

Then came Mitch Daniels and the Major Moves funding generated by the state’s lease of the Indiana Toll Road. Suddenly the Heartland — just like the new Kokomo bypass that will open in November — went from distant dream to tangible reality.

For some, the fight over highway funding has been political, but the Heartland project has never been about politics. Republicans and Democrats have worked side by side to make the case for the new roadway.

And now, the end of this long fight is just over the horizon.

Some who were there at the beginning did not live to see last year’s milestone. Others, though, can barely contain their enthusiasm.

Surely, they will gather again next month, this time to open the final segment to Logansport.

By the end of October, the road will amount to a four-lane link from Lafayette to Lake Erie, and already, local officials are seeing increased interest from industries looking to locate along such a corridor.

Let the celebrations begin.