Commerce Connector gets new life in legislature

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An idea from six years ago may turn out to be a better alternative to an expensive mass transit system for Indianapolis.

The Indiana Commerce Connector proved to be very controversial in 2006. But there are some who believe the project could now help answer traffic problems and the dilemma of completing the I-69 extension.

State Senator Luke Kenley is asking INDOT to explore the feasibility of the Commerce Connector. Kenley believes the state needs major upgrades if it wants to maintain its identity as the "Crossroads of America."

When initially proposed, the Commerce Connector was an outer belt tollway around Indianapolis. It stretched from Pendleton to the northeast all the way down to Martinsville and then up to Interstate 70. The connector would include the communities of Pendleton, Greenfield, Shelbyville, Franklin and Martinsville and link interstates 69, 70, 74 and 65.

Governor Daniels proposed making it a public-private partnership toll road with the money earmarked for the completion of I-69. Senator Kenley is not alone on this issue.

"Right now, we are trying to figure out how to get the Feds to finish I-69 and I think this would be an excellent way to do it. Someone else pays for it, meaning someone pays for the construction," said Sen. Tom Wyss (R-Indianapolis). "It would be a toll, which means if you were going to take it, you would pay a toll, but if you didn't want to, you could go the regular way down 69, take 465 around to I-65 and go south that way."

"What has changed, hopefully, is that we see transportation infrastructure as part of our job and our economic development key. I think there is some interest in it. We got to get through these issues. It's new ground, new terrain. Sure there will be some downsides to it, but we can't stop at what we have if we are going to keep growing," said Westfield Mayor Andy Cook.

Wyss carried the legislation when it was initially proposed. It sounds like this possibility will get some consideration in the upcoming legislative session.

INDOT is currently considering different options to complete the fifth section of I-69, which means upgrading SR 37 from Bloomington to Martinsville.