Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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January 12, 2010

U.S. 31 bypass work moving along

Daniels says construction ahead of schedule

The Kokomo Corridor will be open for traffic by the end of 2013, two years ahead of schedule, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced Tuesday.

Beginning in the spring, the first stretches of north-south roadway will begin to take shape on the 12-mile corridor, and what once planned as a six-year project is now expected to be finished in four.

“Indiana is the only state like this,” Daniels said during an interview Tuesday. “The rest of America is crumbling and we’re building at a record rate.”

Earlier in the day, Daniels addressed members of the U.S. 31 Coalition at the group’s annual legislative conference, telling members that all but the southern end of the $1 billion project — the portion in Hamilton County — will be finished by 2014.

Daniels said the project will cut an hour off the round-trip between Indianapolis and South Bend, and said most of that time will be saved by the bypass work under construction around Kokomo and near South Bend.

Indiana began its current road construction binge when it leased the Indiana Toll Road for $2 billion. That money, designated for transportation improvements, was bolstered last year by $440 million in stimulus funding.

And Daniels said he’s been directing the Indiana Department of Transportation to work on high-priority projects.

“In many cases across the state, INDOT, with my encouragement, is moving for speed, and leaving, for the moment, things that could be done later,” he said. “We’re in better shape than almost any other state in America, but even here, the need will always outrun available funds.”

The status of the Kokomo Corridor project was the biggest news at the U.S. 31 Coalition meeting, with INDOT officials announcing work on the corridor has officially been “accelerated” by the administration.

Work already has been completed on two bridges carrying 50 North and 200 South over the new bypass, and engineers have significantly simplified plans for both the north and south ends of the corridor route.

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