U.S. 30 Coalition Discusses Freeway Plan with Residents

U.S. 30 is likely to be upgraded to freeway standards in the next 10 years, so now’s the time for local residents to get together and offer their input. That’s what a consultant working with the statewide U.S. 30 Coalition told residents during an informational meeting Wednesday in Hamlet.

Dennis Faulkenberg with transportation consulting firm APPIAN said that while it’s not a done deal yet, the U.S. 30 upgrade is a big priority for the Indiana Department of Transportation. And with recent legislation, funding may be available to make it happen.

The proposal would upgrade U.S. 30 to freeway standards between Valparaiso and Fort Wayne. In that stretch, the only way to get across U.S. 30 would be with an overpass, and the only way to get on will be at an interchange.

Faulkenberg says planning for where those would be placed hasn’t begun yet. He says local residents need to start building consensus on where they want them. Otherwise, he says INDOT will decide for them.

As for why U.S. 30 needs to be upgraded, Faulkenberg points to traffic volumes, safety, and economic development. Right now, 30,000 vehicles use the corridor on a daily basis. INDOT expects that number to increase by more than 8,000 over the next 20 years.

Faulkenberg says that the mix of truck traffic and passenger vehicles, as well as the number of stoplights, have led to safety issues, including some fatal accidents in recent weeks. By upgrading to freeway standards, INDOT projects U.S. 30 would see 323 fewer accidents and four fewer fatalities a year.

Additionally, the upgrade is projected to bring 10,000 new jobs to the U.S. 30 corridor over the next 20 years. Officials with the Starke County Economic Development Foundation say the upgrade is vital to the county’s future, since businesses often refuse to locate beyond a certain distance from freeways.

One concern raised by residents Wednesday was how much property would need to be acquired. Faulkenberg said that the current right of way is probably wide enough already in most areas. Where land acquisition would come into play is at overpass and interchange locations. Residents also questioned why INDOT hasn’t been making minor safety upgrades all along, like acceleration lanes near the Grovertown truck stop.

Residents also wondered if the real issue is trucks avoiding the Indiana Toll Road, and if the way to solve U.S. 30’s traffic problems would be to make changes to the toll road itself. Faulkenberg responded that the two highways probably serve different traffic, but agreed that it might be worth looking into vehicles’ origins and destinations.

The next step is to organize local committees made up of farmers, emergency responders, school officials, and other stakeholders. Starke County is represented in the statewide U.S. 30 Coalition by Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Charlie Weaver. Marshall County representatives include Plymouth Mayor Mark Senter and Marshall County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Jerry Chavez.