Project Purpose and Need
The need for the project derives from the high rate of accidents that are occurring along the US 31 corridor. A study completed in 2017 evaluated accident data in this area for the three-year period from 2014- 2016. The study revealed that Hamilton County saw 5.96 accidents per mile per year, and most of these crashes occurred within 1000 feet of an intersection. Accident data was recently reviewed for the three-year period from 2018-2020 and it was determined that during this time frame Hamilton County reported 10.98 accidents per mile per year. This in an 84% increase in Hamilton County between the two study periods. Following too closely, failing to yield the right of way, and disregarding a traffic signal/sign were common causes of accidents during each period. These types of accidents occur more frequently at intersections. The purpose of this project is to reduce traffic accidents along US 31 by creating a limited access corridor that will still provide safe local access to area motorists.
Preliminary preferred alternatives at each cross street, summarized in the table for Hamilton County have been identified by INDOT based on preliminary environmental studies completed, and public and local government feedback received to date.
The current project area, from SR 38 to 286th Street, is approximately 7.5 miles long. Right-of-way acquisition will be required, but the amounts for most of the corridor are currently estimates. It is anticipated there will be commercial and/or residential relocations and the potential for up to 382 acres of new permanent and up to 13 acres of temporary right-of-way in Hamilton County, resulting from this proposal.
Where new overpass bridges are proposed for construction, traffic will be detoured along cross streets where new overpass bridge construction is proposed. Cross streets that are to be turned into cul-de-sacs will experience a permanent traffic alteration. Proposed interchange areas will utilize phased construction to maintain traffic. Initial stages of construction expected to begin in Summer 2022.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is driving the need of this project?
The need for the project derives from the high rate of accidents near intersections along this stretch of US 31. Hamilton County sees an average of 5.96 accidents per mile per year and Tipton county has an average of 6.83 accidents, per mile per year. A majority of these crashes are occurring withing 1,000 feet of an intersection where cross traffic as well as slowing and accelerating vehicles for turning movements create conflict opportunities. The primary purpose of this project is to reduce traffic accidents along US 31 while maintaining local access by providing interchanges and overpasses at select locations.
2. How will conversion of US 31 to limited access increase safety along US 31?
With a traditional at grade intersection, there are 42 potential conflict points. Of the 26 intersections located between SR 38 and SR 26, there is one existing interchange at SR 28 and an additional 25 at grade intersections including one railroad crossing. Elimination and/or conversion of at-grade intersections to grade-separated intersections will result in a significant reduction in conflict points and a reduction in vehicular crashes.
3. Why do some intersections need to be closed or have cul-de-sacs constructed?
While it would be wonderful to have every intersection become an over/under-pass or full interchange, the fact is that we cannot afford to do so and have to make some tough decisions about which locations must close and which will remain open using a variety of factors including traffic volumes, construction cost and end-user utility costs. The benefit to cost ratio of converting all intersections to either overpasses or interchanges is too small to justify/warrant construction of grade-separated intersections at all locations.
4. Why can’t right-in/right outs be constructed at intersections to allow partial access to county roads?
While construction of right-in and right-out intersections would be possible at select locations, one goal of the project is to convert to US 31 to a free-flow corridor. If right-in/right-out access was to be granted at county roads, US 31 would need to be upgraded to Freeway standards. This includes the construction of acceleration and deceleration lanes and would result in added cost and right-of-way impacts. Converting US 31 to Freeway standards would cost an estimated four to five times more than the free-flow plan. Additionally, overpasses will be needed to provide cross county connectivity.
5. How will the limited access conversion affect local businesses?
Local businesses with only direct access to US 31 will need to be relocated as part of this project. If it is not feasible to provide alternate access.
6. How will the limited access conversion affect the local economy?
During construction there may be a minor increase in localized economic activity due to the presence of the contractor. Over the longer term, we cannot definitively promise there will be an economic impact to the local economy as the investment being made to convert US 31 is aimed at reducing congestion and improving safety. While improvements to safety and congestion are the primary drivers of road improvements, a tertiary benefit which comes with improved travel is better commute times and traffic flow that sometimes leads to additional development. It is INDOT’s Mission to collaboratively plan, build, and maintain safe and innovative transportation infrastructure that enhances quality of life, drives economic growth, and accommodates new modes of transport.
7. With the change in access to US 31, county and local roads will be seeing an increase in traffic including farm equipment and truck traffic. Many county roads are not built to adequate design standards to handle this increase in traffic. How will this be addressed?
Local counties are responsible for the county roads. INDOT has been coordinating with Hamilton County and Tipton County Highway Departments. Coordinating now allows time for counties to plan and execute improvements to their roadways to accommodate the future. For example, some of the improvements along US 31 are scheduled several years from now which allows the local counties time for their plans to be developed and in some stage or execution; specifically, at this time it is anticipated the construction in Tipton County would begin in 2024 at the earliest (outside of the US 31 over Norfolk Southern and CR 100 S project)
8. Why is Tipton County no longer included in this project?
As part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study effort, initial Early Coordination letters were sent out in April 2020, Community Advisory Meetings were held for Tipton County and Hamilton County in July 2020 and a Public Information Meeting was held in September 2020. Since the initial presentation of the project details, members of various Tipton County Communities, Tipton County Government officials, local Tipton County businesses as well as emergency response teams expressed concerns about how the project would impact access and how the local economy would be impacted related to current and future developments. Concerns expressed in Hamilton County were fewer than in Tipton County and more focused on the project details and emergency response times. The Town of Arcadia commented on economic development concerns with the proposed access at 266th Street to be removed and changed to an overpass.
Hamilton County continues to develop and access to US 31 in Hamilton County between SR 38 and 286th Street will include three interchanges over 8 miles. The reduction in access because of the project is not expected to have a significant impact on economic development in Hamilton County. The landscape in Tipton County continues to be uncertain with potential developments regularly being considered in Tipton County. Access to US 31 in Tipton County from CR 600S to SR 931 will include the existing interchange at SR 28 and partial access at SR 931 over 11.5 miles. While access as proposed should not have a significant impact on the existing conditions, the proposed reduction in access in the county could have an impact on proposed development.
Based on the facts that INDOT does not currently have funding in place for many of the US 31 proposed improvements in Tipton County and that the future needs of ongoing development have not yet been realized, INDOT shifted the phase of this project from 286th Street to SR 931 out of the ongoing NEPA study and into an independent Planning and Environmental Linkage (PEL) study. More information regarding INDOT’s approach to PEL studies can be found at www.in.gov/indot/4035.htm. The proposed interchange at 276th Street, which limits access up to 286th Street, is the logical break point between the two phases of the corridor as it is the northern-most funded full-access point where we can create a safe transition for drivers along US 31. This ensures that we are not limiting the considerations of alternatives that might be developed and advanced in Tipton County. Also, this will allow the currently funded projects in Hamilton County with the higher increased accident rate to proceed in a timely manner while more time is spent to properly balance the needs of INDOT and the local communities in Tipton County. We will, however, continue to observe and evaluate how the corridor operates from 286th Street to SR 931 and, if necessary, propose systemic safety improvements while the larger scale PEL study is underway. Possible systemic safety improvements may include reducing the number of median crossovers, installing median cable barrier, modifying the existing interchange at US 31 & SR 28, adding turn lanes at county road intersections, and adding advanced warning signage throughout the corridor.
Public Information Meeting 1
- Public Information Meeting 1
- Public Information Meeting 1 Presentation
- Public Information Meeting 1 Presentation Slides
Public Information Meeting 2
- Public Hearing Presentation Video
- Public Hearing Information Packet
- Public Hearing Slides US 31 Limited Access Project in Hamilton County
- Draft EA Document
- Public Meeting Notice
BF&S Environmental Studies Manager