Dateline: Fri 10 Nov 2006

The buzzword for Indiana's future supposedly is logistics -- moving things, transportation, Celadon-type "crossroads of America" growth. Trucks, wheels, rubber, roads.

If that's true, then Gov. Mitch Daniels' bold plan to build an outer loop around greater Indianapolis is a stroke of genius. Not only will the proposed 75-mile tollway ease the often horrendous traffic on I-465, especially wicked in the northeastern part of the loop, it'll provide a gateway to that new Honda plant in Greensburg. And a road to future job growth.

I'm a fields-and-water kind of girl, and far be it from me to recommend anything that is going to destroy farmland, but the truth is: we're dying out here in the boonies. Farming isn't cutting it for a lot of Hoosiers -- to pay the bills, many farmers work in industry at what jobs they can get by day (Wal-Mart Distribution Center, I kid you not), and farm at night. If building roads means attracting new business, new plants, new opportunities, that's a strong incentive.

The Star's business columnist John Ketzenberger, always wise and thoughtful, reported Sunday that, election rhetoric aside, the economy is the state's No. 1 issue.

"There's an economic gulf in Indiana, a state that's still 33,000 jobs short of the number it had as the 21st century dawned. Hourly workers feel it acutely," he said.

In today's star, Ketzenberger, who does more and better reporting than his peers, offers some insight on the new roadway:

"Daniels seems to have hit a daily double with this plan. First, it removes tolls from the extension of I-69 to Evansville...Second, the Indiana Commerce Connector (the administration's moniker for the project) creates an unfettered route for trucks on I-69, the NAFTA highway, which will make it easier and quicker than it would be to use I-465."

Ketzenberger concludes that this plan has been on the back burner for some time, in the sense that, "Local economic development planners have included a second loop on their wish list for years."

OK, maybe logistics has about as much sex appeal for future Hoosiers as "plastics" held for Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) in "The Graduate." But you take it where you can get it, as a therapist told me years ago. We don't have high-tech happening like crazy here; we don't have a big tourist draw outside of Indy; we have a national identity for foreclosures, obesity and dropout kids. We're in a stall that can become a freefall.

Bottom line: Indiana needs jobs. Bring on the roads. I know one critic said in today's Star that building such outer loops is "so 1970s." Well, guess what -- Indiana hasn't progressed beyond the 1970s. So the 1970s might be just what the doctor ordered.

Final wish: Let's hope the union people and others who understand the critical need for jobs work with new Speaker Pat Bauer to convince him to work with the guv on this one.

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com


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