Fate uncertain for current U.S. 31 through Kokomo

The stoplight-plagued U.S. 31 through Kokomo will soon be supplanted by a new bypass nearing completion around the city, although the ultimate fate of the current road remains uncertain.

The Indiana Department of Transportation will renumber the current route to U.S. 931 once the bypass opens this winter, but officials want to eventually turn the road over to the city to oversee and maintain.

The city hasn't reached a deal yet with state officials, but similar agreements elsewhere have seen local governments receive millions of dollars to maintain highways the state has given up.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said he wasn't ready to talk about ideas that city officials have for improvements to the current roadway.

"Right now, it's a state highway, so I'm not sure it matters," Goodnight told the Kokomo Tribune.

The new 13-mile interstate-standards bypass around Kokomo — costing some $150 million — is part of a $1.2 billion reconstruction project for U.S. 31 linking Indianapolis and South Bend. Other major parts include roadway sections being built in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis and between South Bend and Plymouth.

Kokomo officials are concerned about the condition of the current road that serves as the city's main business corridor and runs along large factories for Chrysler and Delphi Electronics.

Goodnight said state highway department officials have "been very consistent in saying that once the new 31 opens, the current 31 will not be a priority. They've been clear about that."

Will Wingfield, a highway department spokesman, said it was too soon to know what agreement would be reached on the Kokomo road.

"INDOT will usually pay for either a reconstruction, or for maintenance going forward, but not both," Wingfield said.

The state agency paid nearly $23 million to Lafayette last year for it to take over a section of U.S. 52.

Sallie Fahey, executive director of the Area Plan Commission of Tippecanoe County, said local officials thought it was fair to compensate the city for 15 to 20 years of maintenance costs.

"We just want to make sure whatever facilities we take over would be in good repair, and would last for a number of years," she said.

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