SALEM, In. (WDRB News) --Leaders in Washington County, Indiana hope a new highway will bring more economic development. But some shop owners in Salem's town square worry about how the opening of the new highway might actually hurt their business.
The bypass has been in the planning stages for decades, but finally at least a portion of the new four-mile highway is open just south and east of Salem.
Community leaders say the highway is needed to take traffic congestion away from Salem's town square where traffic is often heavy and big trucks often pass through. They also say the new road will make the town square safer. At one time there was a very serious accident involving a tanker truck that caused environmental concerns.
Washington County councilman Merwyn Fisher explains, "Several years ago, I believe it was a nitrogen tank that turned over and because of the grade of the hill in the town square the liquid load flowed into a nearby creek."
On Thursday, Lt. Governor Becky Skillman helped to cut the ribbon on the opening of the new highway, which not only should make travel through the town square safer but is designed to attract more industry to Washington County.
"Infrastructure improvements are one of the top reasons businesses locate and expand here in Salem and in the state of Indiana, "Skillman told the crowd.
Salem's mayor would also like to see some of the cornfields along the new highway turned into places where business and industry can build. "We have a lot of land, says Mayor David Bower, "but it has not been developed as far as infrastructure is concerned and more road and infrastructure improvements means more growth."
However, some shop owners in the town square worry about less traffic coming through the middle of town.
Joe Pfeiffer has owned a jewelry store on the town square for decades. "As a business owner," he says, "we do need traffic to come through here and I do understand the new road will take some of the vehicles off the square, but it will also take some of the people traveling through, so it is a concern."
Half of the four-mile bypass opened with Thursday's ribbon cutting. The rest of the road will open in a few weeks after work crews complete some final tasks.
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