Kokomo — The best way to see what’s been accomplished on the U.S. 31 Kokomo Corridor thus far is to travel out East Boulevard. The diamond interchange, which was so much dirt being moved about last summer, is nearly complete, as is the mainline roadway from about half a mile north of Boulevard south 2 miles to the Kokomo Creek.

Kokomo police even recently had to deal with a motorist attempting to try out the new roadway.

Despite the “Road Closed” signs and construction cones, the Corvette driver went off the Boulevard interchange south to the Kokomo Creek and then north to where the pavement ended.

Unfortunately, he either didn’t see the end of the roadwork or misjudged it, because his shiny ’Vette ended up totaled. The driver came out nearly unscathed.

Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Harry McGinity said the project, expected originally to cost about $340 million, has been going so well that the project is likely to beat its budget “by a considerable amount.”

Engineers recently had a meeting on Contract 3, which includes the Ind. 26 interchange, McGinity said.

“There was a lot of hand-shaking going on. The whole project is just coming along really well,” he said.

About the only glitch, apart from the Corvette, has been the discovery, by state inspectors, that the deck of the Carter Street bridge (50 North) was “underdesigned” and won’t bear up under repeated heavy weight loads.

The insurance company of the Indianapolis engineering firm that designed the bridge deck is expected to pay the $1 million cost of replacement, McGinity said. The bridge, which opened more than a year ago, will soon be closed again for the repairs.

In all, the 13-mile corridor project is split up into 10 separate contracts, each individually designed and put out for bid.

Of those contracts, two are completed: the bridges at Carter Street and Southway Boulevard. Both roadways will travel over the new bypass.

Four more contracts are under construction:

• The bridge taking 200 North over the bypass, a project which has involved removing a massive amount of bog soils, and which will therefore cost about twice as much ($4 million) as the other two bridge projects.

• Contract 2, which includes the Boulevard exchange.

• Contract 3, which includes the Ind. 26 interchange and runs north to the Kokomo Creek.

• Contract 8, which includes the Markland Avenue interchange and runs north to County Road 250 North.

This year, three more contracts will be awarded:

• Contract 4, which will start at 550 North in Tipton County, and will run north to just south of Ind. 26. This is the southern end of the project, and this contract includes an interchange where 600 North goes up over the new bypass. As the new bypass splits off from the current U.S. 31, motorists traveling north on old U.S. 31 will take a “flying bridge” over the new bypass. The contract includes six bridges in all; in addition to 600 North and the flying bridge, the county line road (500 South/700 North) will go over U.S. 31, and the new bypass will go over the Norfolk Southern Railroad and the East Fork of the Little Wildcat Creek. Construction is expected to begin in October.

• Contract 10, including the Touby Pike interchange, the second most northern stretch of the project. Originally left out of the state’s plans, local officials fought hard for this interchange, which gives access to the Haynes Hi-Tech Industrial Park, Ivy Tech Community College and the Kokomo Municipal Airport. Construction on the interchange is expected to begin in September.

• Contract 11, which is the environmental mitigation portion of the project. Contractors will remove a massive logjam in the Wildcat Creek near Jerome, clean up a stretch of the Little Wildcat Creek near the Preserves at Bridgewater subdivision, and create a wetlands area near the Haynes Hi-Tech park.

All of that work will leave only one contract – the northern terminus running up to the Miami County line – left to bid out in 2012.

Thanks to the state’s Major Moves fund boosted by the 2009 federal stimulus bill, all work on the corridor is expected to be completed in 2013, two years ahead of the original schedule.

By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune staff writer