Traci Moyer, Daily Reporter staff writer

A tollway proposed today by Gov. Mitch Daniels might be Greenfield's solution to traffic congestion, as well as its ticket to a vibrant economy.

Daniels envisions constructing an outer loop miles beyond Interstate 465 and charging a toll for its use, according to a press release from this afternoon's announcement. Daniels calls his proposal the Indiana Commerce Connector, and it will link six interstates through Morgan, Johnson, Shelby, Hancock and Madison counties.

Daniels plans to use this tollway to link Greenfield, Martinsville, Franklin, Shelbyville and Pendleton for future development.

Daniels also announced today that he planned to drop plans to make the I-69 extension to Evansville a toll road.

The proposed toll roads, which Daniels described as the outer loop, will need approval by the General Assembly.

State Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, said she was aware of discussions concerning the infrastructure since last summer.

"It's going to help address some of the needs we have talked about for a long time," she said.

The exact route of the tollway has not been determined, but the plans call for it to begin a short distance from the new Honda plant in Greensburg along I-74 and link with I-70 near the Indianapolis International Airport, making it approximately 75 miles in length.

"There would be less congestion and traffic on the northeast corridor of Indianapolis, and we could save hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction at various points around Interstate 465 and throughout central Indiana," Daniels said in a press release. "You'd see a major reduction in through traffic, especially trucks, that now use I-465 and the spaghetti bowl in downtown Indianapolis to make their way across central Indiana."

State Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield said he was also informed last summer of the discussions, but had few details about the project this morning.

"I guess the devil is in the details," he said. "There are so many different options that were discussed and maps thrown out there. All I can tell you is it deals with infrastructure in Hancock County."

Cherry said from the initial plans discussed he can say that the tollway will help grow Hancock County's economy.

"I think the infrastructure is needed and it will benefit Hancock County," Cherry said. "This is what people have asked for to help with traffic flow, but I don't know how long it will take to put in place."

Daniels said a public-private partnership would be used to design, build, operate and maintain the Indiana Commerce Connector.

If the General Assembly gives its nod, the entire project could be open to traffic within 10 years of the first groundbreaking, Daniels said.

"That will give everyone time to plan for it," Greenfield Mayor Rodney Fleming said of Daniels' proposal. "I think it's really a great thing."

According to the press release, Indiana Department of Transportation will begin working on the project immediately to estimate the connector's cost, establish its specific location, analyze traffic patterns, explore toll rates and revenues, and determine the connector's value.

Preliminarily, INDOT believes the value of the project would not only be enough to build the connector itself but would generate contributions toward funding other projects.
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