Daily Reporter

Traffic congestion on Ind. 9 is a concern for Beverly Slater, but the Greenfield resident has mixed feelings about the outer tollway proposal made Thursday by Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Slater looked at a map of the area that state officials are studying for the proposed tollway to link Martinsville, Franklin, Shelbyville, Greenfield and Pendleton for future development.

"I always thought Indiana was great because they didn't have that many tolls," she said. "It depends on how far you're going. With the gas prices, I think most people are going to take the shortest route."

Slater, 58, said she has seen Greenfield grow by leaps and bounds over the last 18 years.

"(The tollway) might not be that bad an idea, but it isn't something I would use," she said.

The Indiana Commerce Connector, a 75-80 mile outer loop around the northeast, east and south sides of Indianapolis, would link six interstate highways through Morgan, Johnson, Shelby, Hancock and Madison counties.

Dennis Maloy, executive director of Hancock Economic Development Council, said the loop would benefit Hancock County in several ways.

First, the loop would alleviate traffic congestion on Ind. 9 and Mt. Comfort Road, Maloy said.

Second, it would benefit the county's logistics companies and manufacturing companies, he said.

Logistics companies include warehousing, distribution and transportation businesses. A company like S. Abraham and Sons would benefit from the tollway, Maloy said.

SAS executives were unavailable for comment on the proposed tollway.

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SAS is a wholesale distributor of food and other products. SAS has facilities in Greenfield and Milwaukee, Wis.

"Speed to market is so critical to any company," Maloy said. "Any time we improve our ability to deliver products faster, we improve our competitive advantage within the global economy."

Third, an improved transportation infrastructure might benefit economic development officials in attracting new businesses, Maloy said.

Finally, the tollway might encourage a greater variety of residential development in the county, Maloy said.

"There are some in Hancock County who would prefer to see less growth," he said. "An outer loop would certainly encourage more growth."

State officials will begin studying various aspects of developing, building and operating the outer loop. They will confer with local officials, community leaders and transportation, environmental and engineering experts, according to a press release.

Indiana isn't the only state looking to ease the effects of population growth.

Officials in Texas are studying a plan for the Trans-Texas Corridor, which they envision as a system that will ultimately run from the Oklahoma border to Mexico. It would separate automobiles from trucks on almost the entire length of the system, and offer high-speed freight and passenger rail connections for the Corridor's major metropolitan centers, according to a master development plan at www.keeptexasmoving.com.

The Texas Department of Transportation formed a strategic partnership with Cintra Zachry LP in March 2005, according to the online plan.

Gov. Daniels also envisions a public-private partnership to design, build, operate and maintain the Indiana Commerce Connector.

Some residents, though, aren't enamored with the idea of a tollway.

John Todd, an 18-year-old Indianapolis resident, was in Greenfield Wednesday.

"I'm tired of the traffic," he said. "Everywhere you go, there's traffic, always backing up."

Although a tollway could reduce congestion, Todd doesn't like the idea of having to pay a toll.

"You've got to remember that a lot of people are hardly even making it," he said. "It's a good idea, but for us to pay (a toll) for it? No."

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