By Dan Spalding
WARSAW — The idea of upgrading US 30 to a freeway from Valparaiso to Ohio picked up some steam on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
While it is still not an official project on the state’s list, the Indiana Department of Transportation has agreed to begin a study. The US 30 Coalition, made of up representatives of all seven counties, applauded the move.
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer, who happens to serve as president of the US 30 Coalition, announced the development at the tail-end of Tuesday’s city council meeting and it was hailed more than once as “big news.”
INDOT’s study, known as a Planning and Environment Linkages study, will examine various options to improve the safety, traffic flow, freight movement and economic development potential of the corridor, including the construction of a freeway.
INDOT has agreed that the study will recognize the importance of US 30 remaining a consistent type of roadway and not a mixture of improvements and it will not be designed to merely examine the quickest or least expensive solution.
In a news release, the US 30 Coalition thanked Gov. Eric Holcomb, INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness, and the northern Indiana legislative delegation “for their diligent work to make this study a reality.”
“On behalf of the locally elected officials and representatives that make up the US 30 Coalition, we applaud the decision to initiate a designed solution to improve this critical roadway through our communities,” Thallemer said in the statement.
The Coalition has advocated that a freeway is the best and only option for improving US 30 because of the considerable safety and economic disadvantages associated with the current structure of US 30.
Each county has been asked to develop a preferred path for the freeway, but Kosciusko County, which faces a more complicated set of circumstances, has not yet finalized its plan.
It’s been nearly 17 months since Warsaw hosted a public forum on the freeway, which drew about 800 people.
But the pandemic delayed further public input, and Thallemer said they are holding out hope that there could be another public meeting later this year.
Warsaw officials are working with the county to choose from one of three routes that would go in or around Warsaw.
While progress on the local segment has been slowed, a mix of stockholders and community leaders across northern Indiana have been collaborating and lobbying behind the scenes on behalf of the project.
“The commitment from our governor and INDOT Commissioner did not happen by accident,” said State Rep. David Heine, who sits on the State House Roads and Transportation Committee.
“This got done because of the collaboration between our business leaders, our US 30 coalition and our State Representatives and Senators along the corridor. This commitment is great news for economic development in northern Indiana,” he said.
Construction of a new freeway is still many years down the road, but there is an urgency to get it going.
“Our business and government leaders have consistently said that the increasing traffic numbers and corresponding accident rates on our main commercial thoroughfare are untenable for our region’s future, the Coalition statement said.
With the onset of the study, INDOT agreed to institute a moratorium on J-turns on the US 30 corridor except for the one currently under contract at CR 500E in Whitley County.
Any projects that are currently underway on US 30 will not detract from the ultimate purpose of the study, the coalition said.
Thallemer told council members the study could begin this year and will take a few years to complete.
“The fact they are willing to look at this – they’ve acknowledged there is a concern. They’re willing to look at an engineered solution, (that) tells us this is the first step,” Thallemer said.
Below is a fact sheet prepared by Coalition.