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Hoosier Heartland Industrial Corridor

Statement by Martin Weiss

A statement by Martin Weiss, Team Leader, National Systems and Economic Development Team, Office of Interstate and Border Planning, FHWA.

On Feb 23-26, 2004, at the invitation of corridor improvement advocates, I and Roger Manning of the Indiana Department of Transportation (IDOT) toured the full length of the Hoosier Heartland Industrial Corridor through Indiana and Ohio.

The visit served three purposes. The first; was to get a first hand look at the corridor at the invitation of a delegation of corridor improvement advocates. The second; was to develop image and other information base that could be used to evaluate the changes that have taken place in the corridor since improvements have been made. The third; was to establish that same information as a baseline to be used upon completion of the improvements as part of a similar but more detailed evaluation. The map below shows the corridor:

Map of Hoosier Heartland Corridor showing that it traverses four counties in northern and northeastern Indiana and three counties in northwestern Ohio and connects I-65 in Indiana to I-75 in Ohio

map of Indiana showing major Interstate routes

The Quest for a Improved Corridor

Interest in improving the corridor between Lafayette, IN and Toledo, OH goes back at least as far as the early 1960s. In 1962, a study produced by the predecessor of the Ohio DOT, proposed a new and improved alignment between Maumee and Napoleon, OH. In 1972, the Speaker Pro Tem of Indiana House of Representatives was a strong advocate of building a four-lane highway between Logansport and Peru, IN. In 1987, the Indiana General Assembly directed the Indiana DOT to conduct a feasibility study for a multilane highway between Lafayette and Ft Wayne, IN. About this same time, a series of accidents near Waterville, OH led to a grass roots effort to study traffic solutions that in turn led to advocacy of highway improvements for US 24 in Ohio. In 1991, the corridor from Lafayette, IN to Toledo, OH was designated a high priority corridor in section 1105 (c) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. Between that year and 2004, over $25 million was designated by either Congress or the US DOT (mostly by Congress) for improvement of this corridor. The States of Indiana and Ohio also designated substantial sums from federal apportioned funds and State sources for highway improvement in this corridor. There were two environmental documentation efforts in process at the time of this visit (one for the western portion of the corridor, one for the eastern portion of the corridor). In neither case does economic development have a significant role in the formal "Purpose and Need" statement that is part of the environmental impact statement. In both cases, concerns for safety and mobility are emphasized. However, many of the corridor improvement advocates clearly expect that economic development will result from an improved corridor.

photo of a two lane highway.

Business US 24 - Old 24 10 Miles east of Logansport, week of Feb 11, 2004. Prior to 2000, this type of highway carried all the traffic presently carried by a four lane highway.

Signature Events for the Corridor

In the early 1990s, Indiana DOT allocated several million dollars for a twin bridges spanning the Wabash River in the vicinity of Lewisburg in Cass County, IN. By 1996 the bridges were completed and a party was held June 14, 1996. At the time, the twin bridges did not serve traffic (since adjacent parts of the corridor were not completed).

Indiana Hoosier Heartland Bridge Party invitation front. Map of the party site.

The front and back of the invitation to the bridge party is. The front was the party agenda, the back was a map to the site of the party.

aerial photo of a bridge

Spring 1996 Bridge Party for Jack Porter Bridge and Glenn Tanner Bridge over the Wabash River between Logansport and Peru, Indiana - image taken from several thousand feet above the event.

For a number of years, the twin bridges were disparaged as 'bridges to nowhere' in occasional articles in the press. On Sept 2, 1999, the bridge was opened to traffic in a ceremony attended by the Governor of Indiana as the adjacent sections were built. The new section carried a 4-lane highway east to the Miami-Cass County line.

Wabash River sign

Glenn Tanner Bridge over Wabash River between Logansport and Peru, IN, Feb 25, 2004.

Wabash River sign

Jack Porter Bridge over Wabash River between Logansport and Peru, IN, Feb 25, 2004.

Jack Porter and Martin Weiss

Jack Porter, founder of the Hoosier Heartland Industrial Corridor Association, Inc. (left - one of the two bridges is named for him) and Martin Weiss, FHWA.

aerial photo of a bridge

Spring 1996 Bridge Party for Jack Porter Bridge and Glenn Tanner Bridge over the Wabash River between Logansport and Peru, Indiana.

Other sections of a 4-lane highway opened to traffic about this time were the section from the Cass-Miami County line, which opened to traffic on September 1, 2000, and the section from Wabash, IN to Huntington, IN, which opened to traffic on October 19, 2000. The latter opening was also presided over by the Governor.

Some developments in the Western Portion of the Corridor

The western portion of the corridor (from Lafayette, IN to Fort Wayne, IN) has a heavy concentration of employers that deal with the agricultural sector of the economy. One important development in this sector is the expansion (planned for completion in the next few years) of the Indiana Packers Plant near Delphi, IN. Management of this plant, which is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi, stated that this expansion would not have taken place but for the commitment of the Indiana DOT to completion of the improvement of State Route 25 between the vicinity of the plant and Lafayette. The expansion of the plant, which is to increase employment by several hundreds, will include a new product line (boneless meat). This plant produces a substantial percentage of all fresh pork consumed in Japan. Essentially all products are moved from the plant by truck. Management desired the highway improvement to facilitate logistics. However management was also concerned about safety because a number of employees had died in automobile accidents on the existing two lane sections of State Route 25. Given that the jobs to be added will be export related, it is likely that there will be a considerable increase in employment indirectly related to the plant expansion.

photo of a road with a stop sign

Entrance to Indiana Packers Plant site at SR 421 and SR 100W, Feb 24, 2004.

photo of land in front of a plant

Indiana Packers Plant near Delphi, IN near State Route (SR) 25, Feb 24, 2004.

Management of the Anderson's Grain Elevator near Delphi discussed the effect of the previously completed highway improvements to State Route 25. They indicated that the improvements had led to a substantial increase (over 40%) in grain processed by the company's plant near Clymers, IN. They attributed this to the fact that the highway improvement decreased the cost of delivering grain to the plant. Because grain processing is not labor intensive there has been little direct increase in employment at the company. However, the decrease in cost to grain producers leads to indirect but widely dispersed employment gains in the general agricultural sector in the area.

photo of a grain elevator taken from the side of a road

Another Anderson's Grain Elevator and Processor near Clymers, IN at SR 325 and SR, Feb 24, 2004

photo of Anderson's grain elevator.

The Anderson's Grain Elevator and Processor near Delphi, IN on SR 218 just south of SR 25, Feb 24, 2004

Not all of the developments in the western portion of the corridor are agriculturally oriented. A new employer (D.S. Products, Inc.) recently added a facility at a large industrial park near Wabash, IN. A building materials manufacturer (Thermafiber) recently wrote the Wabash County Economic Development Corporation noting that the improvements to the highway have been crucial to the business (the company receives about 2000 inbound shipments of raw material and sends out about 3750 semi-truckloads of mineral wool insulation products).

photo of a field with an industrial park in the background

New employer (DS Products Inc) in Industrial Park on Wedcor Ave. near SR 15 and US 24 in Indiana, Feb 25, 2004.

photo of a road leading into an industrial park

Industrial Park called the Wabash Economic Development Center near SR 15 and US 24 in Indiana, Feb 24, 2004.

Some developments in the Eastern Portion of the Corridor

The eastern portion of the corridor (from Fort Wayne, IN to Toledo, OH which is also known as the Fort to Port corridor) has a more industrial character than the western portion of the corridor. There are a number of employers associated with the automobile industry and a number of employers dealing with logistics and the related services. The logistics involves shipments between Canada and the US as the automobile industry in both countries has substantial web of interrelated production centers. Of course there are many other employers dealing with the full range of other economic activities.

photo of the front of a truck

Canada registered (and placarded) truck on US 24 west of Toledo near Waterville, OH., Feb 25, 2004.

photo of a motel taken thru a windshield

Motel under construction near Industrial drive in Napoleon, OH, Feb 25, 2004.

photo of a truck

Dana company plant (an employer in the auto manufacturing supply chain and part of the Boston Weatherhead Corporation) near Antwerp, OH on US24 Feb 25, 2004.

photo of a truck

Daimler-Chrysler truck near milepost 10 on I-469 near Ft. Wayne, IN, Feb 25, 2004.

photo of trucks at a concrete plant

Concrete Plant on US 24 just east of the Indiana - Ohio State line. Week of Feb 11, 2004

photo of Miami Medical Center

Miami Medical Center near old 31 and US 24, IN, Feb 25, 2004.

Incipient Tourism and Travel Industry

Along the entire corridor are a number of relatively underdeveloped tourism assets. For example, in and near Delphi, IN are historic properties related to the canal era. In Huntington, IN is the Dan Qualye Vice Presidential Museum and in Peru, IN is the Grissom Air Flight Museum. The Ohio portion of US 24 provides access to two State parks, Independence Dam State Park, near Defiance, OH and Mary Jane Thurston State Park which is about 20 miles southwest of Toledo, OH. These two parks are joined by the scenic Buckeye trail along the Maumee River. Without completion of the full corridor to 4-lane status, it is unlikely that these tourism assets can be linked into a desirable package tour that can attract large numbers of tourists. Even with completion, attracting large numbers of tourists will require effort and entrepreneurial acumen.

photo of two trucks in an intersection

City square in Delphi, IN - an active real estate office is at the left, two trucks traverse the square, Feb 24, 2004.

photo of a conference center

Conference center at Wabash and Erie Canal site in Delphi, IN. The conference center has a working model of the canal and locks, Feb 24, 2004.

photo of a street in an historic district

Historic district at Clay and Packett streets in Delphi, IN also contains the Wabash and Erie Canal Park, Feb 24, 2004.

photo of the Dan Qualye Vice Presidential Museum

Dan Qualye Vice Presidential Museum in Huntington, IN on E. Tipton St, Feb 25, 2004.

The Challenge of Improving Safety

At this time a most important problem in the corridor, from a transportation aspect, is the issue of safety. As noted earlier, the accidents in the corridor negatively affect the operation of businesses in the corridor. In the eastern portion of the corridor this problem is especially visible with long queuing of trucks on the 2-lane portion of US 24. The density of trucks is sufficient to require truck stops along this 2-lane portion of US 24.

photo of trucks on a two lane highway

Platoon of trucks on 2-lane portion of US 24 in Ohio about 25 miles east of Ft Wayne, IN, Feb 25, 2004.

photo of a county seat marker at a rest area

Old county seat site marker at roadside truck rest area, about 1 mile west of US 127, Feb 25, 2004.

photo of a rest area

Roadside truck rest area on high truck volume 2-lane portion of US 24 west of Defiance, Ohio, Feb 25, 2004

In Summary and Conclusion

Economic development was not the major reason for making the corridor from Lafayette, IN to Toledo, OH into a continuous 4-lane highway. However, the mobility and safety improvements already in place have clearly contributed to the economic sustainability and vitality of the corridor. A reasonable hypothesis is that completion of the corridor to 4-lane status will further this development. The FHWA looks forward to future visits to the corridor to validate this hypothesis with the information in this report as a baseline.

Updated: 5/4/2012
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