Friday, July 19th, 2019

HHIC luncheon attended by 170

Posted: Saturday, October 9, 2010

The 28th Annual Meeting of the Hoosier Heartland Corridor, Inc. was held Friday, October 8 at Habecker Dining Commons on the campus of Huntington University. A luncheon and informed speakers were enjoyed by approximately 170 attendees. The event was arranged by the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce.

Mike Piggott, Director of Community Relations for Purdue University, acted as emcee and opened the event introducing Mayor Steve Updike. Updike welcomed city and county officials from Huntington as well as many other communities in the state of Indiana. Government representatives, executives from the Indiana Department of Transportation, business owners, and interested citizens were also in attendance. Dr. G. Blair Dowden, president of Huntington University, presented the invocation.

The purpose of the luncheon was to celebrate the sections of the Heartland Highway that are complete and those that are nearing completion. Also the sections that will be considered for future development were discussed. A long-range state highway plan was developed in 1982 by the Indiana Department of Highways (INDOH) which led to the feasibility of building the Heartland Highway. The Indiana General Assembly and INDOH helped to enact House Bill 1700 which led to a 1987 study establishing the baseline for completing the highway. INDOH has since transitioned into the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).

The Heartland Highway is designated by Congress as Federal Highway Administration High Priority Corridor 4. Corridor 4 runs form Toledo, Ohio to Lafayette, Indiana. Segments of this bi-state Corridor are either under construction or have been completed. The construction of the bridges over the Wabash River was begun in 1991, the Fort Wayne bypass was opened in late 1995, and the Huntington to Wabash segment opened in 2000. The Fort to Port segments in Indiana and Ohio are under construction and will be opened to traffic by late 2012 or early 2013. The Lafayette to Logansport segment is scheduled to be open to traffic by late 2013.

Mike McPhillips representing INDOT at the luncheon, explained that construction is on schedule and that the 2012 and 2013 completion dates are a “certainty.” He also thanked Governor Mitch Daniels for his involvement in funding the transportation projects that are currently underway.

The only segment of the Heartland Highway not under construction is a four mile gap from I-469 to U.S. Hwy.-24 on 900N near Roanoke. The Hoosier Heartland Industrial Corridor, Inc. coalition has begun dialogue with the Governor Daniels’ Administration to have this segment known as A-7 completed. The first phase of this effort is now underway through a zoning overlay project with the cooperation of Huntington County, the City of Huntington, and the town of Roanoke.

Tom Weatherwax, long time supporter of the Heartland Highway, presented an update at the luncheon on its progress. He went on to introduce Senate Pro Tem David Long who commented that he had been familiar with the effort since the summer of 1996 and recognized Weatherwax for his leadership on the project over the years. He also thanked Representative Randy Borror for his involvement with the highway. Long said, "In my eyes he is a real hero and carried the ball for its completion."

Long summed up his presentation, “A-7, the easy last jog from I-469 to Roanoke makes all the sense in the world, the problem is money, always is. We need to stick together to get this last segment done and I will do everything I can do get this done.”

Senator Dan Coats, the keynote speaker for the day, also gave great credit to Tom Weatherwax for his efforts to see the Hoosier Heartland Corridor come to fruition. He went on to comment on the excitement in the room to persevere towards the completion of the highway system for east to west. “An east to west corridor will provide ease of travel, reduction of accidents, and increase economic development with an efficient system of transportation,” Coats said. He continued, “New industry will follow and benefit every one of your communities.” Coats is also looking forward to the completion of the dream when the final ribbon is cut as he has seen the dream from beginning to end.

He went on to explain that of all the surrounding states Indiana is rated the most favorable to business. That it is “a very vital region of the U.S. with low taxes and low utility rates.” He spoke of the Highway Reauthorization Bill and assured listeners that Indiana will get its fair share of block grants. He said, “We need to make Indiana stronger and better and an even more attractive place to live than it already is.”

Coats’ presentation was followed by Larry Ingraham from the Sagamore Institute speaking about Japanese investment in Indiana including the Subaru automotive plant in Lafayette. Ingraham stated that it was “wonderful news that the Hoosier Heartland Corridor will be completed by 2012,” he further explained, “With certainty it can be marketed to international interests. You can boast you have coast to coast coverage. Prospective investors can go any direction. Since 1983 I have emphasized Indiana’s nickname, ‘crossroads of America’.” He assured, “You will get looks from potential investors.”

Upon completion of Ingraham’s talk, recognition was given to of Jerry Helvie, Huntington County Commissioner, for his involvement with the Heartland Highway over the years. For his efforts, he was presented a plague by Huntington County Surveyor Jay Poe. Poe is also working towards the completion of A-7 and commented, “We are going to work hard to get it funded.”

The Hoosier Heartland Industrial Corridor, Inc., working with the town of Roanoke, the cities of Huntington, Wabash, Peru, and Lafayette, and the counties of Huntington, Miami, and Wabash are seeking the release of federally approved funds toward the construction of A-7. The funds will be used to undertake a study on how best to complete this section of the highway, explore how to better move traffic through the city of Huntington, and can be used to help develop a historically sensitive interface with the eastern segment of Corridor 4 in the Town of Roanoke, while protecting the wetlands in section 7 to today’s environmental standards.

The timeline being proposed for finishing section 7 is five years. This is an accelerated timeline that acknowledges that once the various Corridor segments presently under construction in Ohio and Indiana open up to traffic in 2013, segment 7 will become a bottleneck to economic growth and a safety concern.