Toll Road looking for bounce back year in 2016

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ELKHART, Ind. --- After declaring bankruptcy in 2014 and getting a new partner in 2015, the Indiana Toll Road hopes 2016 is the year to get back on its feet.

"Right now it's a lot of paperwork and behind the scenes work," Amber Kettring, PR Manager for the Indiana Toll Road said. "Plans and strategy. We've been doing this for months now and have been really busy doing pre-work. In 2016 the actual work will begin. In January, we hope to demolish the Fremont Plaza and the pavement project in the spring as well."

The Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce held an annual breakfast Thursday to hear from the Toll Road about its upcoming investment. The Indiana Toll Road Concession Company is investing $260 million over the next five years to rehab the toll road. The big three portions of that are the Toll Plazas, which they're investing $30 million into renovating, resurfacing the roads to make them smoother and safer for drivers and also technological upgrades to help with safety and efficiency.

"We're going to be providing a safer, more efficient transportation corridor," Rick Fedder, COO of the Indiana Toll Road said. "We're very, very focused on the safety of not only our employees but our customers and first responders. We want to make sure we have the technology and use the technology to make sure we are decreasing the number of incidents on the toll road and increasing safety awareness as well."

Fedder says the technology is a part of the Intelligent Transportation Systems. Essentially, this involves dynamic signage so travelers can be aware to slow down in case of bad weather conditions or if an accident is up ahead and also real time cameras. This provides video to the Indiana Toll Road so they can instantaneously monitor traffic flow to provide more safety and allow motorists to travel more efficiently.

"It will impact everybody from the driver to the business owners," Fedder said. "Because we're going to be providing a safer, more efficient transportation corridor. If we can do that, and get people to their destinations quicker, if we can partner with our communities with projects they're having, it's a mutual benefit to both of us."

One of the glaring issues the toll road is battling right now is the rest stop plazas. The 50s era rest stops are an eye sore but that will soon change.

"Most of our traffic is out of state so they don't know any of the issues here," Kettring said. "So they're going to come in and see a bright, new, shiny Indiana."

With these improvements, it's sure to encourage more business along the corridor for areas just like Elkhart.

"We want it kept in great shape to be a great economic hub," Kyle Hannon, President of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce said. "At the same time, we want it to be a great experience for those who drive on it. Also, the toll road plazas are important but our toll road exits should be nice as well."

"We realize we drive through seven counties on the toll road and in those counties there are several communities and look they're our partners," Fedder said. "We're corporate partners with them. The Indiana Toll road is the Indiana Toll Road. We are Hoosiers and we are partners with our businesses and our citizens and everybody that uses our toll road we're partners with. There's a tremendous opportunity for us to continue that partnership for all the local communities we drive through."