South Bend, Ind. The public will soon get its first chance to drive the new section of U.S. 31 between South Bend and Plymouth.
The 20 mile limited access highway will open to traffic this Thursday morning, August 21st.
“Don’t expect this to be ready for the public at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday,” said INDOT spokesman Matt Deitchley. “We usually wait until after the morning rush to probably sometime after 9:00, 10:00 in the morning.”
Work on the project began in September of 2008 as then Governor Mitch Daniels presided over groundbreaking ceremonies. Daniels has since gone on to become the president of Purdue University and only now is the new 31 ready to make its debut.
“Again, really want to stress to folks though this road is not done, there’s plenty more work to be done. The last interchange, the 7th Road interchange near Plymouth is not even open to the public yet,” said Deitchley.
But after six years and $221 million dollars most of the road is finished.
It’s a 20 mile stretch of limited access highway that stretches from the U.S. 20 Bypass on South Bend’s south side to U.S. 30 near Plymouth.
Starting about a half mile south of the Kern Road interchange, the speed limit is set at 65.
“I’m looking forward to that,” said Abe Ropp of South Bend. Perhaps no ordinary citizen has watched the construction more closely than Ropp, who admits to bringing his own lawn chair to take in the building of the bridge deck over Kern Road.
When Ropp says he can’t wait to drive the new highway—he really, really means it. “I was, last fall, I was on it clear down to Pierce Road and come back and I didn’t get caught so I crossed by fingers.”
While the new road will keep the U.S. 31 name, the similarities with the old version end there.
For instance, 480 driveways emptied out onto the old U.S. 31, while the new road has just four interchanges.
“They key reason why we're doing this, a lot of people think it’s simply a faster trip to Indy, and while we're obviously not upset about that the best thing about it is it's a safer road,” said Matt Deitchley.