New U.S. 31 impacts traffic through small towns

Thousands of drivers checked out the new stretch of U.S. 31, which opened Thursday morning. There was a constant stream of traffic between South Bend and Plymouth.

The most notable change on the new route is a faster speed limit. Drivers leaving South Bend will be able to go 60 miles per hour. The speed limit increases to 65 miles per hour as drivers make their way south.

While the new route provides a faster way to travel, INDOT spokesperson Matt Deitchley also pointed out the added safety.

“On the south side of South Bend there have been countless accidents over the years due to countless turnoffs,” Deitchley said. “The new roadway has four interchanges. We think it is going to save lives.”

The opening of the new U.S. 31 was evident to people who live along the old route. In places like Lakeville, residents woke up to a much quieter block. They noticed less cars venturing down small town blocks.

“It was kind of shocking this morning to see it drop so drastically so quickly,” said Denny Hardy, a Lakeville business owner.

Hardy said the change in traffic will take some getting used to but he is not too worried about losing customers.

“We don’t get many that just happen to stop by,” he said. “We get a few, but not many.”

Other business owners are concerned that they will miss out on the exposure they got by being located on a busy roadway.

“We have no interest in hurting the economy in any way,” Deitchley said. “In actuality, you’ll see that the heavy traffic wasn’t stopping in those towns. We hope these towns will seize the opportunity to turn into a destination … a place where people can stop more safely.”

With less commercial traffic driving through Lakeville, Hardy hopes it cuts down on speeding.

“I’m sure the people that live on 31 are going to love it,” Hardy said. “It’s been a very dangerous area. It is hard to cross the street sometimes.”

While opinions are split on the impact the new U.S. 31 will have on small towns, Hardy said he hopes Lakeville thrives in the next few years.

“I’m sure each of us is going to hurt somewhat but if it makes it a better town and a better place to live then we’ll make up for it in the end.”

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