In the past decade, INDOT made major upgrades to U.S. 31 across much of Hamilton County and added a new interchange at State Road 28 near Tipton. INDOT also built new-terrain portions of the route around Kokomo, and between Plymouth and South Bend.
These improvements greatly reduced congestion and increased safety on the most heavily traveled segments of U.S. 31. Only six traffic signals remain on the 150-mile-long corridor between Indianapolis and South Bend.
Investing in Infrastructure
In 2018, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Next Level Connections program directed $100 million to build four additional interchanges at key locations on U.S. 31. These interchanges will be built in 2021 at 236th Street in Hamilton County, and in 2023 at State Road 18 and Business 31 in Miami County, and State Road 10 in Marshall County.
In 2019, an additional $75 million in state funding was earmarked to construct two additional interchanges on U.S. 31 — at Division Road in Tipton County, and at S.R. 218 North Junction in Miami County — and to construct a railroad overpass over U.S. 31, north of Argos in Marshall County.
INDOT’s long-term capital plan, Next Level Roads, also invests nearly $300 million on U.S. 31 to improve intersections, remove railroad overpasses, and eliminate private driveway access.
These projects will happen in phases over the next several years, beginning in 2020. Four of the new interchanges, two overpasses, and seven Reduced Conflict Intersections will be built by 2024. As a result of this investment, U.S. 31 will be a free-flow route with no traffic signals or at grade rail crossings by the end of 2026.
Free-Flow Route Benefits
Once planned U.S. 31 improvement projects are complete, U.S. 31 motorists and residents and businesses along the route corridor will benefit:
- Travel time between Indianapolis and South Bend will be reduced and will be comparable to travel time on a freeway.
- Although U.S. 31 currently offers convenient access throughout the corridor, route capacity, reliability, and connections to other modes of transportation will be improved as interchanges, intersections, and railroad overpasses are completed.
Free-Flow vs. Freeway
INDOT can make U.S. 31 safer and remove all traffic signals and rail crossings at a fraction of the cost of upgrading the highway to freeway specifications:
- To convert U.S. 31 to a freeway would cost as much as four to five times more than INDOT’s plan, with little added benefit.
- A freeway project would require years of federally mandated environmental review that would delay
the project and needed safety improvements.
- A freeway would require more private property, forcing more people from their homes, require more businesses to close or relocate, and reduce the amount of property available for future development.
Improving U.S. 31 to a free-flow highway can be achieved at lower cost, in much less time, and with far less impact on existing homes and businesses while achieving the same benefits as a freeway.