For the 20,000 or so people in Daviess County who wind up driving to Indianapolis, life has become more complicated.
On Jan. 2 the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and contractors closed a five mile stretch of SR 37 through Martinsville while construction crews upgrade to roadways to interstate standards as part of the I-69 development.
“We are doing this to get the project through Martinsville safer and faster,” said INDOT Regional Public Relations Director Natalie Garrett. “This lets us put more equipment in place and without having traffic moving through it is much safer for the crews.”
The closure is expected to last for a year.
“You know almost everyone who drives winds up going to Indianapolis,” said Bryant Niehoff, executive director for the Daviess County Economic Development Corporation. “This will make that trip a little longer and inconvenient, but it is one more necessary step to finally getting I-69 completed.”
“We knew this was coming,” said Washington Mayor Dave Rhoads. “I am just anxious to see them get it done.”
While the work is going on in Martinsville, INDOT will also be working on a project with limited traffic from Morgan Street in Martinsville to SR 144 near the Johnson County Line.
“That is the last contract in this section of road,” said Garrett. “The state still has one more contract to let and that is on the final section that will connect with I-69.”
The SR 37 closing has an official detour that will run from SR 39 to SR 37 to SR 67 to SR 144 at Mooresville where it will come back and connect with SR 39. For vehicles that are travelling long distance the advice from the state is to avoid I-69.
That change of traffic is part of the frustration for communities south of Indianapolis. For years those cities and towns where the road is completed have been promised an economic boom. The problem is to get that boom they have to watch the traffic counts fall while trying to use the road to entice businesses to locate in their area.
“Last year, with COVID, was challenging,” said Niehoff. “Now with the closing of SR 37 it is going to be even more difficult to provide prospective businesses with the traffic counts they are seeking. For a lot of big restaurant and retail chains if those traffic counts are not there then they won’t talk to us.”
“They can’t get this done quickly enough,” added Rhoads. “When it is finished this road will be a tremendous help to us, because then we should start to see the traffic flow and development that was always expected along I-69.”
It appears that reaping the economic benefit of the construction of a road remains much like making an omelet. You have to break some eggs first.
“We have to keep the long-term benefit in mind,” said Niehoff. “This disruption, inconvenience and detours will be temporary. When it gets done and the road is finished no one will even remember the problems we have now.”