By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
With an expected 850 new jobs in the Chrysler Tipton Transmission plant on the horizon, the Indiana Department of Transportation will be creating a new interchange at U.S. 31 and Ind. 28.
Earlier this year, the Chrysler Group announced it was investing $162 million in the vacant factory at the intersection to assemble 9-speed transmissions for Dodge and Jeep models. Operations at the 800,000-square-foot facility are expected to begin by the end of 2014.
INDOT announced Tuesday that it will construct a new interchange at an estimated cost of $17 million, with the work expected to start in 2015.
“We will make Indiana the state that works by supporting economic development through infrastructure improvements,” Gov. Mike Pence said in a press release. “The new U.S. 31 and Ind. 28 exit will accommodate increased commuter and truck traffic while advancing ongoing efforts to remove stoplights on the highway between Indianapolis and South Bend.”
The new Kokomo Corridor that is rerouting U.S. 31 around Kokomo to the east is expected to open by the end of the year. U.S. 31 will be a limited-access highway through Howard County once the Kokomo Corridor is completed.
Tipton officials have been working with INDOT regarding the need for intersection improvements for a year.
Tipton Mayor Don Havens said the construction of an overpass will be either at the intersection for U.S. 31 or Ind. 28. He said it is likely the work will impact businesses already located at the intersection.
“This news portends further growth for this critical economic development area,” Havens said. “Our residents will be connected to Hamilton and Howard counties in a very meaningful and constructive way.”
With Tipton County currently working on the adoption of a new comprehensive plan, Havens said it was imperative the northern three townships be included in planning an interchange in that part of the county.
“The county has to take the current information and include it in the comprehensive plan.” Havens said.
The Tipton County Commissioners and INDOT have an agreement to construct a new road, 560 West, that will link Ind. 28 and Division Road to the east of the Chrysler plant.
The intent is to divert truck traffic to Division Road around the city of Tipton and provide access to U.S. 31 at the intersection.
Steve Edson, director of the Tipton County Plan Commission, said the draft proposal of the comprehension plan anticipated an interchange at U.S. 31 and Ind. 28.
“It’s a significant development that the interchange will be completed,” he said.
Edson said the comprehensive plan will have to address whether Tipton County supports U.S. 31 as a limited-access highway through the county. He said local officials are hopeful INDOT will approve a second interchange at Division Road, which is the preferred route to the Northgate Industrial Park.
“If, for design reasons, the state doesn’t want an interchange at Division Road, personally, I would advocate for a second interchange at some point north of Ind. 28 in the county,” he said.
For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Kokomo Tribune eEdition, or our print edition.