Retired pastor Robert Lee hopes the new U.S. 31 bypass will be more of a conveyance than a hindrance to “those it passes by.”
And Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight wanted the onlookers assembled for Tuesday’s grand opening of the new road to consider the “challenges” posed by the stretch of highway.
“We need to make sure we develop it properly … to make it an asset not just for Howard County, but for the entire state,” Goodnight said, saying that the Ind. 931 corridor through Kokomo needs to be protected.
“We need to make sure anything we do to develop this road doesn’t detract from the investments made by our businesses there,” he said.
From the Kokomo High School orchestra to Gov. Mike Pence and various state, federal and local officials cutting a ribbon and leading a caravan up the new road, Tuesday’s grand opening was the culmination of more than a decade of planning and five years of actual construction.
The $155 million road, which Pence said came in more than 40 percent under pre-construction estimates, also was finished two years early, after former Gov. Mitch Daniels and the Indiana Department of Transportation moved the Kokomo corridor up the priority list.
“This road is not a bypass,” Pence said. “This road is a freeway of opportunity for Kokomo and all of north central Indiana.”
Goodnight and Lee weren’t the only attendees of the grand opening with mixed feelings about the road, which will allow traffic to circumvent 15 stoplights and about 130 “access points” along the 931 corridor.
A moratorium on new zoning along 31, and finally a city annexation of several of the interchanges, has prevented commercial and retail development along the new corridor. City officials have made it clear they want to prevent an exodus of existing businesses to the new road.