US 31 reopens in northern Indianapolis suburbs after construction closure since April

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CARMEL, Indiana — A stretch of U.S. 31 through the northern suburbs of Indianapolis reopened to traffic Tuesday after being closed since April.

The opening of the section in Carmel beat the goal of having it ready for drivers before Thanksgiving Day, said Nathan Riggs, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The highway was shut down for more than a mile to allow for faster completion of work that includes building interchanges and overpasses. The work was part of a multi-year project in Hamilton County to upgrade the road to interstate standards between Interstate 465 and Indiana 38 north of Westfield.

Riggs said two U.S. 31 lanes will be open for traffic both northbound and southbound, but construction will continue on a third lane through next year.

"It was an important deadline to meet for holiday travel, holiday shopping season, winter weather," he said. "It wasn't just important for Carmel or Hamilton County or the greater region of northern Indiana, it was important for INDOT and its contractors to meet that deadline."

The Hamilton County project is part of a $1.2 billion reconstruction project for U.S. 31 linking Indianapolis and South Bend. Other major components are the bypass around Kokomo that opened last year and a 20-mile section of divided, four-lane highway that opened in August between South Bend and Plymouth.

The closure in Carmel sent the highway's average traffic of 51,000 vehicles a day to alternate routes and caused trouble for numerous restaurants and retailers as many drivers avoided the area over the past eight months.

Upgrades to the highway will continue in 2015, with work on about a two-mile section between the I-465 interchange and this year's construction zone. There will be lane closures and local road closures during that work, but U.S. 31 and the I-465 interchange will remain open to traffic, Riggs said.

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