Many of you who travel to and from Indianapolis use U.S. 31. As you have recently discovered, U.S. 31 is undergoing a major transformation to become a limited access highway. Grade changes (over- and underpasses) are being constructed to keep local traffic off of the highway.  Bypasses divert highway traffic away from local traffic. Dangerous intersections are eliminated. As intersections are eliminated, so is congestion and conflict.  Highway traffic moves more freely, reducing regional and interstate travel times.
The obvious benefit of shorter travel time is greater cost efficiency for freight, business and leisure travel. The significant, positive impact on commerce cannot be argued. Even more important is the resultant improvement in safety.
This past July, the state’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Infrastructure made their recommendations to the governor. Among those was a proposal to make U.S. 30 a limited access highway between Fort Wayne and Valparaiso.
Let’s step back and look at this for a minute. In 1972 when the U.S. 30 “bypass” was opened, it eliminated the highway traffic that had passed through the city on Lake and Center streets for many many years. INDOT put one overpass over Ind. 15. Imagine if they also had put more over and underpasses at Parker Street, Center Street, and CR 250E, along with a few well-placed frontage roads.
Other than those first few years in the mid 1970s, we can all agree that “new 30” functioning as a “bypass” quickly became a thing of the past. The problem was that there was too much access to U.S. 30. You know the story. As retail and industrial growth flourished along the route, seven traffic signals were added to the two original. Today, there are a total of nine traffic lights and only one overpass.
The community welcomed and benefited from all of those new commercial opportunities that developed “out on 30.” But along with that, the intersections became increasingly more congested and gradually less safe.
I recently was discussing retail growth with another mayor from a similar size community in Northern Indiana. She was envious of the diverse retail opportunities Warsaw has. She was lamenting the lack of a major highway through her community and was continually turned down by developers, being told that retailers need the regional traffic volume that a highway provides. Having been involved in the retail growth along U.S. 30 as a member of the Warsaw Plan Commission and City Council for 17 years, I can verify that. We have the retail.
So where does that leave us in the limited access U.S. 30 discussion? Grade changes would greatly improve safety for local traffic. Congestion at most highway crossing intersections would be mitigated. Business travel would improve. Attraction of industrial prospects would be enhanced by the logistics benefits of being adjacent to a limited access highway. I’m sure there would be others.
However, many local businesses that benefit from regional traffic and interstate travelers would be negatively impacted. By limiting access on and off of U.S. 30, customer volume would be limited. Overpasses and underpasses require much property. Some landowners would be displaced.
While not slated to begin anytime soon, the fact that the U.S. 30 project is being looked at by the state begs the issue. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts. Contact me at mayor@warsaw.in.gov