By DAVE KITCHELL LAFAYETTE - It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes generations of public officials to build a highway the National Highway System overlooked. That was the take-away lesson from a groundbreaking ceremony for the final segment of the Hoosier Heartland Industrial Corridor Wednesday. City, county, state and federal officials who represent taxpayers from Lafayette to Fort Wayne gathered for waves of groundbreaking photos in a church parking lot. It marked the start of a project previous generations of leaders envisioned as a tonic for the rustbelt areas of northern Indiana left behind in the 1970s when railroads discontinued passenger service and the PennCentral went the way of the rumble seat. Above a crowded gym floor where there were more than 50 tables filled with guests, banners thanked congressmen and governors past and present for their votes and dollars. On the west side of the floor below, Gov. Mitch Daniels appeared as he usually does - sans necktie - to enjoy a moment of progress well-orchestrated less than two weeks before election day. Daniels’ involvement with the project has been relatively brief compared to many of the legislators who soldiered the project from the start. One of them, Jill Long Thompson, is Daniels’ opponent in the election. She wasn’t there, but a banner thanking her for supporting the project when she was the 4th District congresswoman recognized her effort. Ironically, it’s been so long since that happened that Indiana’ 4th District has gone from the east side of the state to the west. The current 4th District congressman, Steve Buyer, also took the podium without a tie, and said he feels somewhat responsible every time he hears reports of a death on winding Ind. 25 northeast of Lafayette. Rep. Dan Burton, fresh off the sting of another Indianapolis Star endorsement of his opponent, appeared with a tie, but without the long track record of commitment to the project. Burton represents Miami County, but the Heartland started is progress there long before he was in Congress. A former Indiana legislator, Kermit Burrous, was among House leaders who funded the initial segment from Peru to Wabash along U.S. 24. That was in the 1970s when white crosses marked the points where fatalities occurred on a route that paralleled the old towpath of the Wabash & Erie Canal. [caption id="attachment_2074" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Gov. Mitch Daniels at the Hoosier Heartland Corridor groundbreaking on Wednesday. (Lafayette Journal & Courier Photo)"]Gov. Mitch Daniels at the Hoosier Heartland Corridor groundbreaking on Wednesday. (Lafayette Journal & Courier Photo)[/caption] In 1974, former Gov. Otis Bowen opened a bypass around Logansport. But it wasn’t until much later that more progress was made in connecting Fort Wayne and Lafayette with a 4-lane highway. By 1984, former Lt. Gov. John Mutz told the corridor association gathered in Wabash that the project had no adequate funding in Indiana and that a toll road was an option for the project. A toll road wasn’t good enough for representatives for both parties. The late Jim Jontz, a Brookston Democrat, secured federal funding for two bridges over the Wabash River and managed to get the project on the National Highway System priority list. State Sen. Tom Weatherwax, a Logansport Republican, who was on the House Ways and Means Committee in ’84 when Mutz was thinking toll road, secured state funding. After Jontz’ defeat in 1992, Buyer was able to secure funding and work with the later deposed Tom DeLay to change the "donor state" funding formula that allocated federal gas tax money disproportionately to states. Buyer also lured powerful House leader Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania to Indiana to see the endpoint of the project in Lafayette. The late Frank O’Bannon hailed from about as far south in Indiana as a  Hoosier can drive, but his Crossroads 2000 program drove Heartland progress in northern Indiana. On O’Bannon’s watch, the Huntington-to-Wabash segment was built and U.S. 24 was improved from Fort Wayne to the Ohio state line. Preliminary work on the Logansport-to-Lafayette segment also began. After Daniels’ lease of the toll road secured nearly $4 billion for Indiana roads, he announced the project could be finished by 2016. That still wasn’t good enough for Heartland supporters, and Daniels eventually moved up the project. On Wednesday, there was a tongue-in-cheek comment that it could be moved up again. As it is, 2013 looks realistic for the completion of a project that has taken generations to pass off - or to put off. Nonetheless, progress is being made. The Heartland stands as a testament to Hoosier initiative and an example of what bipartisanship can accomplished when a slight flame is lit at the feet of the people who are elected to serve the people and do things for them and their communities they can’t do for themselves. If only there were more examples like it in Indiana. After all, it takes a state of committed citizens who care to raise issues ... and to resolve them. Dave Kitchell is a veteran Indiana political journalist who teaches journalism at Ball State.