Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

September 2, 2013

Hoosier Highway from Lafayette to Fort Wayne set to open

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — When the Hoosier Heartland highway is finished this fall, Lafayette resident and Peru native David DeSalvo will need new excuses to avoid trekking back to his parents’ house every weekend for Sunday dinner and “game night.”

After decades of planning and stop-and-start construction, the four-lane divided highway from Lafayette to Fort Wayne is due to be open by Halloween, the Indiana Department of Transportation says.

DeSalvo will have a faster, safer route between Lafayette and his hometown, which he affectionately refers to as “clown town,” owing to Peru’s long ties to the circus world.

“My mom has been following the construction of the (Hoosier Heartland) since I was in high school,” the 29-year-old Purdue University graduate said. “She just calls it ‘that road.’ She is already dropping hints that she’s gonna want me up there as much as possible. She says, ‘You know, when that road is done you can come have a meal every once in a while — you, me and your father.’

“But it’s cool. She’s a great cook.”

Completion of the last leg, from Delphi to Logansport, will cap a project that has been talked about since the mid-1970s and under construction for more than 20 years, said Tom Weatherwax, Hoosier Heartland Association president. The perennially underfunded project received a major boost in 2005 when then-Gov. Mitch Daniels launched Major Moves.

The state plowed money — more than $10 billion since 2005, according to INDOT — from the lease of the Indiana Toll Road into highway projects, including the Hoosier Heartland.

Weatherwax, who as a state senator backed the controversial toll road lease, said it’s still hard to believe that in less than two months he’ll be driving the full length of the highway.

“I relate this to almost like the last spike in the first transcontinental railroad. But I don’t think it took as long to build the transcontinental railroad as it did this highway,” Weatherwax said.

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