Todd Johnson, an official at the Indiana Department of Transportation, was the guest of the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce Tuesday afternoon for a luncheon at Elcona Country Club. Johnson provided a broad overview of the more than $1 billion in annual capital state highway improvements currently happening throughout the state.
It’s encouraging to see the progress INDOT is making, much of it on the back of a controversial $2.6 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road, which runs through Elkhart and LaGrange counties’ back yards (or front, depending on your perspective). In southern Indiana the extension of I-69 from Indianapolis to Evansville is well underway.
In northern Indiana, a 13.4-mile stretch of four-lane, U.S. 31 expressway around Kokomo is set to open by the end of this year. Anyone around these parts who has been stuck in afternoon traffic in the heart of Stoplight City on their way to Indianapolis will be forgiven if they break into a chorus of “Hallelujah!” Another 20-mile stretch of U.S. 31 expressway from South Bend to Plymouth is scheduled to open by December 2014. These major projects will go a long way in improving the ease and safety of travel from the Michigan state line all the way to the Kentucky state line.
While we stand to benefit from the U.S. 31 improvement during long trips south, it is a couple lower-scale projects here in Elkhart County that have the potential to have the biggest impact on our lives. Those potential projects include a roundabout at the intersection of Ind. 19 and Ind. 119 just north of Nappanee and a C.R. 29 bridge over U.S. 6 just north of Syracuse.
The Ind. 19/119 project is estimated to cost $3 million. A projected price tag for C.R. 29/U.S. 6 project has yet to be released. It’s our feeling that these potential projects would be of great benefit to our community, mainly from a safety standpoint.
Roundabouts are a proven way to reduce the number and severity of traffic crashes, and we believe that will be the case at the Ind. 19/119 intersection. However, with such a heavily traveled road and such a high volume of buggy traffic at that location, we hope special measures will be considered to keep occupants of slower, non-motorized vehicles safe.
The C.R. 29 bridge is also encouraging because of the volume of serious crashes each year at that road’s intersection with U.S. 6. C.R. 29 is a popular route from Goshen to Syracuse, and we feel that eliminating that U.S. 6 intersection will save lives down the road.
There are two upcoming public meetings regarding these potential projects that we encourage those impacted by these proposals to attend. Regarding the Ind. 19/119 project, there will be a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the NorthWood High School auditorium. Regarding the C.R. 29/U.S. 6 project, there will be a meeting at 6 p.m. on Aug. 28 at the Wawasee High School auditorium.
We hope to see you there.