End game


U.S. 31 Hamilton County project close to stretch run

By Mark Ambrogi

Jason Rowley knew how to get some love from his Westfield Chamber of Commerce audience.

Rowley, project manager for U.S. 31 for CHA Consultants, recently told The Bridgewater Club gathering that this would likely be his last discussion with them since the eight-year U.S. 31 Hamilton County project in Westfield and Carmel will likely be finished by the end of the year. Naturally, it drew a loud applause for the start of his talk.

The $350 million project’s mission was to upgrade the 13 miles of existing highway between 1-465 and Ind. 38 to freeway standards, including 11 new interchanges. Construction began in 2011.

When the final section opens, a total of 32 traffic signals will have been removed, saving an approximate 30 minutes of driving time. In the corridor, there are 44 bridges, 1.5 million square feet of retaining wall and 1.5 million yards of excavation, Rowley said. There were 85 buildings removed and 215 land acquisitions completed.

Rowley praised the work of the utility companies in moving the project along.

“A lot of people thought the utilities would never get done,” Rowley said. “They all worked together partnering with INDOT and they all got the work done.”

Rowley said the utilities will be concluded in early April.

“The contractors will then be full bore so we can get this done by the end of the year,” he said.

In Carmel, Rowley said U.S. 31 up to 146th Street is essentially complete. Rowley said he hopes 126th Street/Carmel Drive interchange will be opened up by May or June.

Westfield has six interchanges. There is no access at 169th, 181st and 191st streets, but Rowley said those intersections should be finished later this year.

Rowley said the biggest amount of work has to be done to finish the 191st Street interchange.

Most of the landscaping is scheduled to be done in the fall and next spring.

“Hopefully by the summer of 2016 everything will be green and all the grass will grow,” Rowley said. “Then INDOT can move on to other projects.”

Rowley said by late November, the speed limit should increase in Westfield from 40 mph to 55 mph.

“When the three lanes open up and orange barrels disappear, that’s when you see the speed limit raised,” he said.

Phil Fanning, facilities manager for IMMI in Westfield, said he is encouraged by the news the project is getting closer to being finished.

“The U.S. 31 project has had a significant impact on our business,” he said. “However, our relationship with the City of Westfield and INDOT and Jason Rowley has helped immensely for us to be able to anticipate those changes. Make the changes we need to make from a business prospective so the commerce goes on uninterrupted.

“No one likes to live in a construction zone,” Fanning continued. “We got it going on all sides around us. We’re ready for this to be done and enjoy these new changes. That interchange at 191st Street at U.S. 31 was a dangerous intersection. This is a very good thing.”

Jim Helton, a manager for The UPS store, 17437 Carey Rd., Westfield, is encouraged by the progress.

“As it goes through various stages of completion I’ve seen it cause our customer counts have gone up,” Helton said. “We’ve seen double-digit increases in our business from September all the way through this month. I would say our business is much better than before the project started. More people have moved here and there are a lot more things going on in the community so that impacts our business significantly.”

For more information, visit www.us31hamiltoncounty.in.gov.

By the numbers

$350M – Cost for the U.S. 31 Hamilton County project upgrades .

13 – Miles upgraded of existing U.S. 31 between I-465 in Carmel and Ind. 38 in Westfield including 11 new interchanges.

32 – Number of traffic signals that will have been removed when the final Hamilton County section opens to traffic at the end of this year.

30 – Approximate minutes of travel time saved through project.

55 – Miles per hour speed limit designed for the improved U.S. 31 section in Hamilton County.

2017 – Year it is expected that the county and INDOT will build a flyover ramp from southbound Lowes Way to southbound Keystone Parkway.