Seven years of work expected for central Indiana highway

May 26, 2010

Some who live near the heavily traveled section of U.S. Highway 31 north of Indianapolis say they're glad a long-planned reconstruction is on its way, even though planners expect it will take seven years to complete.

Work is to start next year on upgrading the highway through Carmel and Westfield to interstate standards in phases through 2017 — a key part of a $1.2 billion reconstruction project between Indianapolis and South Bend.

State highway officials presented project details in Carmel on Tuesday. Plans for the 13-mile section north from Interstate 465 include eliminating numerous traffic signals as 10 street crossings will be converted into interchanges and five crossings will be turned into overpasses or underpasses.

"I'm glad they're going to make U.S. 31 into a limited-access highway," said Ken Miles, a retired salesman from Carmel who drove on the highway when it was still a two-lane road. "Now you drive up and down 31, and you always hit the stoplights."

The highway through the northern Indianapolis suburbs carries more than 60,000 vehicles a day, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Dena Jellison of Carmel called traffic on the highway a "madhouse."

"You cannot get in and out anywhere, because the traffic volume is so high," she said.

Construction is under way on two other projects aimed at streamlining the drive along the 120-mile route between South Bend and Indianapolis.

A new roadway is being built between South Bend and Plymouth and a new bypass around Kokomo, one of the most congested parts of the highway, is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.


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