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June 27, 2014

NASH: I can’t drive 65

— Over the last decade, I have traveled the road between New Albany and Shelbyville, Ind., at least twice a month. While it is not the most scenic route to take, the fastest way to get there and the most direct is to take Interstate 65 to exit 89.

Over the last year, or so the road has been so hard to travel due to maintenance issues I wish there was a better way.

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of construction on the section that has had issues for almost two years. The asphalt on the road between Scottsburg and Seymour has been barely passable for at least a year, and now that the construction is underway, long delays are the norm. I have complained about the condition of the roadway to anyone who would listen for so long, I guess I can’t start complaining when they are trying to fix it now.

I started north on Interstate 65 on Sunday around four o’clock and for about 30 minutes I was doing all right. I traveled as far as Scottsburg when I was met with two lanes of stopped traffic. It wasn’t stop-and-go traffic. It was just stopped.

My first instinct was that there must have been an accident up ahead for there to have been such an abrupt stop in traffic, but I soon realized that they had taken the interstate down to one lane as part of the continued construction.

Not only was the traffic in one lane, the cars were diverted to the emergency lane while the main two lanes of traffic were being worked on. I have seen traffic diverted this way before, but usually they will lay down extra asphalt to improve the emergency lane so that cars can travel on it safely. This lane was not upgraded, so all the cars were forced to drive on a stretch of concrete that was not designed to be traveled on, especially at any decent speed.

Luckily, we never got above 5 to 10 mph for the approximately 10 miles that I remained on the Interstate. I decided to leave the Interstate and take the back roads to my destination.

Over the years, I have learned a thing or two about how to get from place to place in case there was an accident or other diversion. I hopped off the main road and headed up U.S. 31.

Charles Kuralt, who traveled the country in search of news stories for decades as part of his “On the Road” segments for CBS television, once quipped, “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.”

I enjoy traveling the back roads on occasion, and wish I could do it more often. Getting to your destination as fast as possible isn’t always the best way, and I recommend that you try getting off the interstate once in a while. When you leave the expressway, you get to see things that you would have driven right by if you state on the main road.

Another benefit of traveling the back roads is the price of gas seems to be lower. I passed several gas stations that were off the beaten path, and the price was much cheaper than it was on the interstate. I found gas for at least 60 cents cheaper than some of the stations that set up shop just off the exit ramps.

Our former governor had a 10-year plan to spend $2.6 billion on road projects around the state. The money came from leasing the Northern Indiana toll road for 75 years.

The “Major Moves” plan will be winding down soon, and I am wondering if we have spent that money in the best way possible. All of that money was spent on highway construction, but can you tell by driving on our roads?

The current Indiana governor has constantly touted how great our state is doing fiscally compared to our neighbors. He claims that businesses see Indiana as a place that they want to come and set up shop.

If I was the CEO of a major corporation and I traveled our Interstate highways, I would think twice about locating here with this crumbling infrastructure.

The 30 miles of road between Scottsburg and Seymour that is under construction should have never gotten as bad as it did before something was done. It will probably be a long time before traveling Interstate 65 will be back to normal.

I guess I will have to continue traveling the back roads until I think it’s a good idea again.

I think I can live with that.

— Matthew Nash can be reached at dmatthewnash@gmail.com

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