It could get ugly as construction work on the new U.S. 31 between South Bend and Plymouth heads into the home stretch.
“Really advising if you can avoid the area at all, avoid the area, that way you can be sure to avoid any delays,” said INDOT Spokesman Matt Deitchley.
Officials today set the tone for the final phase of the construction project and set an opening date for the road itself. “If all goes to plan, if the weather holds out, for us, mid-to late July, we’ll have traffic on the new lanes of the new U.S. 31.”
While the opening of the new road could be just three months away, the wait may seem longer for those who frequently use the old U.S. 31 to travel south of South Bend. They will have to endure some pretty severe lane restrictions as the project draws to a close. The restrictions are slated to start Monday, April 21.
“It’s going to be one lane in each direction on U.S. 31 basically between Ireland and here, Kern Road,” said Deitchley.
29,000 vehicles a day use the one mile, five lane stretch in question. Starting Monday all will have to pass through ‘single file.’ The situation will last not for days or weeks, but for about three months.
There’s a reason why the middle of the new road was completed first in the U.S. 31 Realignment Project. It was the easy part, built through sparsely populated rural lands.
“But ultimately, if you think about it, we had four years of heavy construction that most folks haven’t been affected by, we have about three months that it’s going to be a little bit hairy potentially but we’re working to alleviate that, but then we’re back on the new lanes of U.S. 31.
Meantime, the northern most part of the old U.S. 31 will go from a heavily travelled highway to a sleepy little lane. “The existing 31 right now will effectively dead end in this area of Kern, around, and it’ll become local streets, and folks in the area will have kind of a more local feel to this area,” said Deitchley.
INDOT has held private meetings to explain the lane restrictions to those who drive school busses and fire trucks. Consider this a warning to the general public.