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$30 million roadwork plan OK’d

Lafayette Center expanding from GM plant to Roanoke

– A regional transportation body amended plans Tuesday to allow for an unexpected, $30 million project to widen Lafayette Center Road from the General Motors Assembly plant to Roanoke.

The state funding was announced March 19, and while local officials have long pushed for the project, the cost of rebuilding the 3.7 miles of road made it seem unlikely.

But local legislators and economic development officials kept pushing for it, and the General Assembly approved the funding.

Dan Avery, executive director of the Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council, said it was the regional support that made the difference, noting that Huntington County officials pushed as hard or harder for the project.

When complete, the road will essentially form an extension of Interstate 469, connecting it to U.S. 24 in Roanoke. That will make a highway corridor from Toledo to Fort Wayne to Huntington, Wabash and west to I-65 at Lafayette.

Truck traffic is supposed to continue on U.S. 24 to I-69 and then go south to I-469, but that rarely happens: Of the 8,500 vehicles a day using Lafayette Center Road (also called County Road 900 North), about 17 percent are trucks. Using Lafayette Center cuts 11 miles off the route.

Most of that artery is a two-lane, rural road with little shoulder, not built for the traffic it carries. By 2036, it is projected to carry 15,000 vehicles a day, with 20 percent of them trucks.

Plans call for rebuilding it into a modern road with one 12-foot travel lane in each direction and a center turn lane, expandable to two lanes in each direction. There will also be a bridge over the Norfolk-Southern railroad.

Officials said design work is expected to begin this year, with design and right-of-way purchases completed next year. Construction, expected to cost about $23 million, is scheduled to be bid in December 2015 and begin in the spring of 2016.

dstockman@jg.net

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