Local officials say the state has tapped the brakes on plans to bring controversial changes to several intersections along Miami County’s stretch of the U.S. 31 corridor.
“The kind of agreed upon approach is that J-turns are kind of not on the table right now,” Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, told the Tribune on Tuesday.
That, he said, is the case for all but one intersection at County Road 100 North near the Gallahan truck stop where the Indiana Department of Transportation may still move forward with installing what are sometimes called “reduced conflict intersections” in either the northbound lanes or both the north and southbound lanes.
“The others are basically not under consideration at this time,” Tidd said.
Those other intersections includeCounty Road 800 S, CR 850 S, State Road 218 W, SR 218 E, and SR 16, where INDOT had previously signaled they intended to install the intersections which function much like a controlled U-turn for drivers that would otherwise need to make a left hand turn onto the divided, four-lane highway – as part of the overall effort to streamline traffic flow, remove stop lights and restrict access along U.S. 31.
(The INDOT website still shows that “reduced conflict intersections” are the “recommended” change for many of those intersections.)
Instead officials are going to initiate a study to reevaluate the plan while other work along the corridor moves forward.
That, according to State Rep. Ethan Manning (R-Denver), is a federal process called a “planning and environmental linkage study” that will include an opportunity for the community to provide input.
“It’s a shorter process and it doesn’t stop all work,” Manning said.
It is also a process that he told the Tribune likely wouldn’t start until the end of this year.
The move follows a significant amount of push back from local leaders after INDOT announced its new plans for the Miami County portion of the corridor earlier in 2020.
In July, the Peru City Council and the Miami County Board of Commissioners passed resolutions adding their voices to opposition of the plans that included the J-turns. Area school boards, law enforcement agencies and fire departments were also asked to sign on.
It was not the first time the intersections had met with opposition in the county. The Department of Transportation first floated the idea years ago and several showed up to a public meeting in 2017 to say they didn’t believe the intersections would work on a highway that is expected to see increased traffic flow.
Tidd, who is also part of a group called the U.S. 31 Coalition, has told the Tribune he is generally supportive of the plans to improve traffic flow on U.S. 31 and has cited perceived advantages and benefits when it comes to economic development for the region, but has said he would prefer that state officials leave J-turns out of the equations.
In July he said as much when he appeared before both the county commissioners and the Peru City Council, and suggested that they have their place, but not on a four-lane, divided highway.
“We are not saying that J-turns do not work,” he said at the county meeting. “We just don’t think they work in Miami County.”
On Tuesday, Tidd said he viewed news of the new study as a positive development.
“We are encouraged by it,” he said.