Bridge Construction set to begin on US 31 in Marshall Co.

Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 6:43 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - It’s a long road ahead for constructing new bridges on U.S. 31 in Marshall County.

Officials tell 16 News Now that the main focus of this 2-year project is safety.

As WNDU reported at the end of March, INDOT has reduced traffic on U.S. 31 to one lane in each direction between 13th Road and 14th Road in anticipation of road work.

This $28.7 million project is meant to safely divert traffic over these train tracks, reducing the likelihood of car accidents, particularly concerning stopped traffic before the railroad crossing.

INDOT tells 16 News Now that seven crashes were reported from this location in five years between 2018-2022.

All seven involved a vehicle legally required to stop at railroad crossings, resulting in 38 injuries and one fatality.

Back in 2018, 13-year-old Owen Abbott lost his life after a straight truck hit the back of the school bus he was on when the school bus stopped at the train crossing, which is legally required to do so.

“There was a tragic passing at that point, and so, a lot of that has spurred some additional interest in trying to find separation and changing regulations to look at how can we prevent future events like this,” says Ty Adley, Plan Director for the Marshall County Planning Department. “And so, this is one of those upgrades in terms of separation of traffic, so that you have fewer points in time to conflict between two types of traffic itself.”

INDOT warns motorists that work will happen intermittently as the ground settles, a necessary step to ensure the bridge is safe when it is complete.

Crews have already cleared trees away from both sides of the highway, as the area needs to be widened to guarantee bridge integrity.

Adley says this improvement will help traffic flow and increase motorists’ safety.

“The big benefit to it is from a safety standpoint because looking at it, you’re interacting traffic with a railroad, and a lot of the traffic that’s going to stop at railroads is usually going to be tanker trucks with restricted items, as well as buses for kids,” Adley said. “And so, trying to separate the traffic, from a grade separation standpoint, it’s going to allow traffic to continue to flow, but it’s also going to improve the safety of it.”

The Northbound bridge will be built first, but before bridge construction can commence, crossover roads must be paved to safely switch traffic from one side to another, ensuring motorist and road crew safety.

INDOT plans on finishing the northbound bridge this year and the southbound bridge next year, but the project could last until 2025.

In a statement, INDOT said:

In a previous statement, Bajek said:

“We awarded the contract on February 21. The contractor is Phend & Brown Inc, and the contract award amount is $28,781,891.68. No start date for construction yet, but the goal is early to mid-April. They will do the northbound bridge first, so the southbound will be two-way traffic while that is constructed. This is a two-year project, so looking to have northbound done this year and southbound next year.”