INDOT proposes an accelerated schedule for the U.S. 31 project, completion expected by 2015
Few would deny U.S. 31 is one of the most important roads to Carmel’s populace. The effects of any construction on the route will affect – directly or indirectly – nearly every resident of the city. According to INDOT, more than 53,000 people use U.S. 31 between I-465 and 116th Street every day.
The existing plan to bring U.S. 31 up to freeway standards would have the area under construction through 2017 and cost, including design work, land acquisition and work already completed, approximately $600 million. INDOT proposed a new construction plan that would have the project finished two years earlier. Although, according to INDOT, the numbers aren’t set in stone yet, this accelerated plan will create significant savings for the state by allowing it to take advantage of low interest rates and by beating any potential inflation.
A project of this size incorporates much more than just construction on the main right-of-way, however. As parts of U.S. 31 become restricted by lane or close all together, nearby parallel roads may be expanded and some zone restrictions may be temporarily removed.
Construction has already begun on the interchange at 146th Street. The area has a lane restriction at the moment that has been causing increased congestion in the area. Jen Plummer, a manager at Kincaid’s restaurant in Clay Terrace, mentioned the construction “(hadn’t) affected business yet,” although “guests have been complaining about traffic in the area.” Assuming the proposed plan gets the proverbial green light, this will just be a small taste of what is to come in the next three years. Neither the existing plan nor the proposed accelerated plan would cut off access to Clay Terrace.
Proposed Changes to U.S. 31
- 146th Street – The interchange at 146th Street will consist of ramps feeding into 146th Street, the roundabout at the south end of Clay Terrace that also connects to Range Line Road. and to Keystone Avenue via 146th Street.
- 136th Street, 131st Street and 116th Street – The 136th Street interchange will utilize a “dog-bone” roundabout similar to the ones in place on Keystone Avenue.
- 106th Street – A diamond interchange is proposed at 106th Street.
- I-465 – An interchange will be constructed in order to allow smooth transitions from U.S. 31 to I-465 or Meridian Street.
- All other streets that cross U.S. 31 will be accessible via parallel-running surface streets, as they will no longer connect directly to U.S. 31.
As U.S. 31 begins to feature more restrictions, improvements will be made to local routes, such as Illinois Street, Pennsylvania Street and Old Meridian Street. This, along with diversion of a large portion of traffic to Keystone Avenue., will enable the proposed closing of U.S. 31 from the point where Old Meridian Street splits off to just south of the 146th Street interchange, which would affect more than 37,000 vehicles per day. INDOT is “still developing models in terms of diverted traffic,” according to INDOT State Media Contact Will Wingfield, so exact details on alternate routes are still unavailable.
A city ordinance restricts tractor-trailers not making local deliveries from operating on Keystone Avenue, but this would have to be removed in order maintain the flow of shipping from the north to both Carmel and Indianapolis. All tractor-trailers that don’t require special permits will be able to pass safely under the overpasses there. Only a “very small percentage of over-height vehicles requiring special permits” would need to seek an alternate route, says Wingfield. “Like water sloshing in a bucket, it can take some time for everything to settle down and reach equilibrium.”
- This year – Begin improvements to local routes, 146th Street ramps.
- 2013 – I-465 off-line, continue local route improvements.
- 2014 – 136th Street interchange construction begins; 131st, 116th and 106th street off-line.
- 2015 – 136th, 131st, 126th, 116th, 111th, 106th streets and I-465 interchanges finished.
The benefits of the accelerated plan outweigh the difficulties, however. Completion of the project earlier allows the businesses and community as a whole to “realize the benefits sooner and remove uncertainty sooner,” says Wingfield. “Getting the project finished sooner will ultimately improve access to jobs and the ability of businesses to develop, as well as removing impediment to further investment in the area.”