BY TIM VANDENACK
The traffic is flowing smoothly -- finally -- at the busy S.R. 15-U.S. 20 crossing and some motorists couldn't be happier.
"It's great," said Hank Evans, who hauls recreational vehicles for a Bristol truck transport company.
S.R. 15, which links Goshen and Bristol, had been closed north of U.S. 20 since late May to accommodate a $9.2 million upgrade at the busy crossing.
That meant Evans had to use side roads on his frequent trips between the two cities, increasing travel time and raising the specter of an unwanted encounter with a deer.
S.R. 15 finally reopened Saturday, though, so now Evans is back to using the road, and he was all smiles Monday as he fueled his truck at a S.R. 15-U.S. 20 gas station. He only hopes speeders don't get any ideas now that S.R. 15 north of U.S. 20 has a smooth, new surface and a straighter, more streamlined profile.
Not everyone was beaming, however.
As part of the upgrade of the 2-mile S.R. 15 stretch north of U.S. 20, a section of the road was built higher, presumably to address occasional flooding in a couple low spots. That resulted in steeper uphill driveways to some of the homes just off the road and several unhappy homeowners.
"They've just added more problems," said Mike Summy.
His driveway had been built level where it enters S.R. 15, allowing for relatively easy in-and-out access.
With the upgrade -- overseen by the Indiana Department of Transportation -- the driveway now meets the roadway at an 8 percent uphill slant. The drive was raised so it meets flush with the higher S.R. 15, resulting in sharper downward slopes on either side of the entry.
Several other homeowners, perhaps 10, have similar gripes, according to Summy, and they've raised their concerns with INDOT officials -- even contacted state lawmakers.
An INDOT spokeswoman said the driveways exceed INDOT standards, but Summy worries the steep driveways will become slippery trouble spots with the advent of cold, icy weather. He also blasted the lack of guardrails on some sections of the raised S.R. 15 stretch.
"I hope it doesn't come to someone dying before something gets done," he said.
SOME PROJECT PARTICULARS
The upgrade of the S.R. 15-U.S. 20 intersection, right between Elkhart, Middlebury, Goshen and Bristol, started last year. U.S. 20 was widened from three to five lanes on either side of S.R. 15 and S.R. 15 to the south of U.S. 20 was also broadened.
Numerous travel restrictions had been implemented during the work, but the closure of S.R. 15 on the north side of U.S. 20 was the longest. On Monday, traffic moved smoothly at the once-congested crossing, with white and yellow striping contrasting the dark new blacktop.
Even so, a few workers were still at it, continuing with shoulder work along a couple S.R. 15 sections. Next spring comes sodding in a few spots, the addition of a final layer of asphalt to some S.R. 15 driveways and other minor work, rounding out the project.
The overall price tag for the work was initially set at $8.35 million, but it has since jumped about 10 percent to around $9.2 million, according to INDOT.