INDIANAPOLIS -- Five southwestern Indiana counties will be switched back from the Central to Eastern Time Zone, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday.
The agency, which regulates time zones, said Daviess, Dubois, Knox, Martin and Pike counties will be on Eastern time again beginning Nov. 4, when daylight saving time ends. Federal officials denied a separate petition from Perry County to also return to Eastern time.
The six counties were among 17 in Indiana that asked in 2005 to switch from Eastern to Central time. In January 2006, federal officials allowed eight of the counties to move to Central time beginning in April 2006. Seven counties later asked to return to Eastern time.
The Transportation Department in February granted a request for Pulaski County in northern Indiana to switch back to Eastern time. That took effect on March 11, when daylight saving time began this year. Starke County in northern Indiana did not seek to reverse its move to Central time.
The agency says it bases its decisions on whether zone changes will benefit commerce. It looks at factors such as transportation, consumer patterns and where areas get their radio and television signals.
In its most recent decision, the department said the five additional counties going back to Eastern time had demonstrated benefits such as economic ties, schooling, recreation and regional connections. They had filed a joint petition.
Perry County commissioners decided in March to file a separate petition to return to Eastern time if the other five counties were allowed to. But the agency said Perry County appeared to be oriented to Central time, and the petition did not adequately justify the change.
The decision follows a review of more than 3,500 public comments filed in response to the petitions. The department said it will not consider any new petitions for time zone switches in Indiana for at least a year to minimize disruptions and allow the agency and communities to assess the changes.
The new changes become effective when daylight saving time ends, so residents in the five counties moving to Eastern time will not need to change their clocks on Nov. 4. Residents of Perry County, however, must move their clocks back one hour on that date.
The flurry over zone switches stemmed from a bill Gov. Mitch Daniels pushed through the Legislature in 2005 to require statewide observance of daylight saving time. He said it would boost commerce by bringing all of Indiana in line with 47 other states. Legislative efforts to make the switch had failed for three decades.
The law required Daniels to ask the federal Transportation Department to decide whether zone boundaries should be altered. Federal officials responded by saying any county wanting to switch had to petition on its own and cite potential economic benefits.
"We now have the highest number of Hoosiers ever on the same time year round," Daniels said after Thursday's announcement. "I was glad to support the local petitions and glad five of the six counties have been approved to move to the Eastern Time Zone."
Perry County Commissioner Don Sherry said he thought it would have been better economically if the county had been allowed to move back to Eastern time with the other five counties. But he said people in all six counties were fiercely divided over the issue.
"I just hopes this brings an end to it," he said.