INDIANAPOLIS - After years of the state refusing to budge on its plans for pushing Interstate 69 through southern Marion County, Gov. Mike Pence said he's now willing to talk about it.
I-69 was Pence's focus Wednesday as he spoke to an auditorium full of highway contractors and designers who want the job of building the I-69 segment from Bloomington to Martinsville.
"I want to be clear today. I am firmly committed to completing I-69 from Evansville to Indianapolis," Pence said to the group.
The plan now is to follow State Route 37, but many Perry Township residents feel that would tear up their neighborhoods too much and would prefer a shift to the west.
Pence said he'll listen to them.
"We're really open to a lot of discussion on all of that in terms of where that route would be most effective," he said. "There's other factors that ought to be considered in terms of long-range planning for Indiana... I know that there's a framework in place.... but I think we're going to continue to keep an open mind and take a lot of public input as we move forward with that."
Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, said he's not surprised about the governor's position, based on his own private conversations with Pence.
"I think what makes most sense would be having I-69 going through 5-Point Road near the airport,” Waltz said. "It would connect with the Ameriplex logistics area, one of the biggest, most vibrant warehousing areas in the state, if not the Midwest. It would connect near the airport, the FedEx packing facility and really tie the community together with southwestern Indiana."
Not everybody is buying the governor's words on flexibility.
One neighborhood advocate said that Pence tends to straddle both sides of an issue, and she said she won't believe there's a change in the offing until it actually happens.
INDOT is currently building the Crane-to-Bloomington section of I-69, which is scheduled to open in 2015.
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