Residents and businesses in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis are bracing for the start of an eight-month closure of U.S. 31 as part of the project upgrading it to interstate standards.
The Indiana Department of Transportation is scheduled on Friday to shut down a stretch of the highway for more than a mile through Carmel. That closure, which is scheduled to last into November, is meant to allow for faster completion of the project that includes building interchanges and overpasses.
The official detour will direct traffic to Keystone Parkway on Carmel's east side between U.S. 31 and Interstate 465, but Carmel City Councilwoman Sue Finkam said she expects many drivers will head onto city streets in order to get around.
"There's no doubt it's going to be disruptive. Keystone and 96th was already a busy, accident-prone intersection, and now we're going to dump 50 percent of U.S. 31 southbound traffic onto it," Finkam told The Indianapolis Star.
Still, she said she's glad state officials decided to shut down the highway rather than stagger the work over several years.
The Carmel work is part of a $1.2 billion reconstruction project for U.S. 31 linking Indianapolis and South Bend. Other major parts include the new bypass around Kokomo and a new roadway section being built between South Bend and Plymouth.
Sukhi Mann, a managing partner at Amber Indian Restaurant near U.S. 31, said he expected business to be down at least for the first few weeks as people figure out how to get from place to place.
Mann's primarily concerned about the lunch crowd — "they have limited time from 12 to 1 — they don't want to get stuck in traffic."
State highway officials say the agency has worked to spread the word about the closure of the highway that averages 51,000 vehicles a day. Hundreds of people attended community forums about the closure in March, and many others received fliers and electronic newsletters with details.
"On this project in particular, I think our public outreach has been exceptional," agency spokesman Nathan Riggs said.
For more information, Hamilton County offers a site that shows the closures and detours.