U.S. 31 will be a freeway around Kokomo and through southern St. Joseph County and Carmel by the end of 2015.
With the completion date looming, the project’s backers are already turning their efforts toward areas as yet untouched by construction.
“The problem is, what’s going to happen in between?” U.S. 31 Coalition executive director Dennis Faulkenberg told a group gathered at a Kokomo business breakfast Tuesday.
“It’s wonderful to do the hard parts, but the parts in between — in Tipton, Miami, Fulton and Marshall counties — those parts have to be done to make U.S. 31 a true freeway.”
Large stretches of U.S. 31 travel through largely rural areas of Tipton, Miami, Fulton and Marshall counties, and design work and funding to upgrade those areas remain question marks.
And if planning isn’t done to control growth in those rural areas, “the development will just migrate into the counties, and we’ll have more driveways and stoplights,” he said.
The good news for advocates like Faulkenberg is that two weeks ago, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced a new public/private partnership would allow the estimated $436 million cost of upgrading U.S. 31 in Hamilton County to be raised from private capital.
The state will repay that cost over the next 8 to 10 years, allowing the work to move be completed by 2015. Original estimates had the Hamilton County portion being completed in 2018.
Indiana Department of Transportation officials now envision the following timeline:
• In 2013, the 13-mile bypass around Kokomo will open to traffic, at a total cost of about $160 million. Originally, the cost of building the Kokomo Corridor was estimated at $340 million.
• In 2014, the 20-mile upgrade of U.S. 31 through St. Joseph and Marshall counties will open, at a total cost of about $220 million. The road, 15 miles of which is on new terrain, runs from the junction with U.S. 30 to the Indiana Toll Road.