A conference highlighting progress of I-69 and laying out the future construction on the road included a section showing what Washington and Daviess County have done to try and take the most advantage of the new interstate.
The two-day conference put on by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce included updates on the plans for the final section of I-69 between Martinsville and Indianapolis, progress on the construction of a bridge over the Ohio River, and even a report from the Canadian Counsel General on a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor.
The more than 100 conferees also received a presentation from officials in Daviess County on the efforts under way to prepare for and welcome development along the interstate.
"They asked me to present and talk about interchange development," said President of the Daviess County Economic Development Corp. Ron Arnold. "With our elected officials and their foresight we've been working on this for well over 10 years. We are ahead. That said, there is still a ton of work that has to be done."
One thing officials wanted to hear about is the way Washington and Daviess County has looked to expand services to the areas near the exits.
"Mayor (Joe) Wellman was complimented on the water tower," said Arnold. "The highway has been open three or four years and already there is a new water tower up. We have plans and maps on all of the infrastructure currently there as well as what is needed for any expansion out there."
A major investment in infrastructure is currently under way in the area near the I-69 interchange. More than $600,000 in road, sewer, water, gas and fiber lines are in the process of being developed. "Washington was noted more than once during the conference," said Washington Mayor Joe Wellman. "We have worked to capitalize on the road with the development of our water, sewer and planning and zoning. It felt great to be recognized for something that is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people."
Wellman points out that Washington and Daviess County is no new player in the I-69 development. He notes that decades ago the community began to work on the potential growth the highway could bring.
"There were people working on this in 1984," he said. "We want to make sure we have good development. Sometimes good development moves slowly. It may take some time. It's a process. It won't be an overnight thing."
Local officials say that the conference was full of information and even some surprises on how the overall project is moving forward. "It was really enlightening," said Arnold. "They are further ahead on the bridge over the Ohio that we thought they would be. If it moves smoothly, we could see them moving toward construction in 2020."
While much of the concentration of the conference was on the interstate and what communities can and are doing in the roadway corridor, Arnold says some of the quality of life projects will have a long-term consequence on decisions made by developers. He points out things like the development of Meredith Park, new street lights downtown and around Washington High School, the new city pool, development of the New Tech program at North Daviess, development of the CORE Center and improvements at Daviess Community Hospital as well as improvements in area schools will make a difference.
"It's not just the interchange," said Arnold. "It's also, over the last 10 years, all of the quality of life projects we've been involved in."
That combination is giving the city of Washington and Daviess County a growing reputation around the state. "We are really known to have our act together for making the best decisions and getting the most bang for our buck and people outside of Daviess County are beginning to take notice," said Arnold.
Being able to share what has been happening in Daviess County to more than 100 movers and shakers at the I-69 conference was just one more way to try and highlight the community and build more interest in developing the area.
"It was a chance to put Daviess County front and center at no cost," said Arnold. "We are known as an area that can get things done. I saw this as a huge honor and opportunity to talk to those people."
Both Mayor Wellman and Arnold walked away from the conference with a positive feeling about the project and Washington and Daviess County's place in the future.
"It may be a few more years, but I-69 will be open to Indianapolis," said Arnold. "We're already seeing an increase in traffic. As they look to the bridge, we want to be ready when the bridge over the Ohio River is done. We want to be ready and set and be sure everything is a shovel-ready site out there and we've already got some projects started."
"There is certainly a lot of work to be done, but there is still a lot of enthusiasm for it," said Wellman. "It's a long-term project, but it will get done. Just don't ask me for a specific date yet on when that will be."