Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

October 29, 2012

Long journey nears an end

Kokomo — THE ISSUE: Last week’s opening of the Delphi-to-Lafayette segment of the new Hoosier Heartland highway.

OUR VIEW: Area leaders, particularly those in Cass County, deserve our thanks. The new road will be safer and could spur economic development.

Area governmental officials joined last week in marking another milestone toward completion of the long-awaited Hoosier Heartland.

Antique cars, semis, fire trucks and police cars lined up Wednesday morning 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.

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 lots of 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 supports kept at it, kept pushing their elected leaders and kept fighting to build the highway a segment at a time.

Then came Gov. Mitch Daniels and the Major Moves funding generated by the state’s lease of the Indiana Toll Road. Suddenly the Heartland went from distant dream to tangible reality.

For some, the fight over highway funding has been political, but in Cass County, 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 week’s milestone. Others, though, can barely contain their enthusiasm.

Roughly a year from now, officials will gather again, this time to open the final segment to Logansport.

By then, 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.

Last week’s celebration was a great milestone, but it won’t be long before the highway is finished. And then the real celebrating will begin.

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