PERU — Miami County officials want to develop a strategic plan for U.S. 31 to prepare for a pending state project that will likely turn the highway into a limited-access freeway through the county.
Dennis Faulkenberg, executive director of U.S. 31 Coalition, which has advocated for upgrades to the highway since 1990, said Gov. Mike Pence has made it a goal to turn U.S. 31 into a freeway-style road from Indianapolis to South Bend.
He said the state hasn’t officially developed any blueprints for a new highway in Miami County, but said developing a limited-access freeway is part of the state’s long-term plan.
Parts of U.S. 31 in Kokomo, Indianapolis and South Bend are under construction and will limit access to the highway.
But the prospect of a freeway-style U.S. 31 with only a few interchanges in Miami County worries some officials, who say limited access could land-lock Peru and make it difficult for drivers to get into town.
Council member Craig Boyer said that’s why the county needs to develop a strategic plan for the highway that would maximize its benefit to the city and county.
“I’m a little frightened about what might happen to our county, and this plan had better be in place,” he said. “We’d better really be on our watch. This could be bad for businesses in Peru.”
County Commissioner Larry West said area officials will discuss where to put interchanges, access points and frontage roads, and come up with a blueprint that has the greatest benefit for area residents and businesses.
“We want to have a plan in place so we can make educated suggestions to the state before they just come along and tell us what they’re doing,” he said.
And Faulkenberg said that’s a definite possibility if the county doesn’t develop a strategy for U.S. 31.