GOSHEN — The first vehicles will drive down a new four-mile stretch of C.R. 17 on Friday morning when the corridor is expected to open to traffic from C.R. 28 to C.R. 38 in Goshen.
The north-south connector road has been touted as a route to link the city’s manufacturing district with major highways in the northern part of Elkhart County, including U.S. 20, the Indiana Toll Road and U.S. 12 in Michigan.
“Our primary employment in the county is in manufacturing, and high quality infrastructure is important to those businesses being able to get materials in and finished products out,” said county commissioner Mike Yoder, who plans to be at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for C.R. 17 at 10 a.m. Friday. “It’s an economic development project at its very foundation.”
County council president John Letherman called the extension south to C.R. 38 “a home run for the community.” The ultimate goal, he said, is to connect the road even farther south to U.S. 6 east of Nappanee.
County highway manager Jeff Taylor expects about 7,000 vehicles per day to travel along the new section of C.R. 17. The road can handle more than 30,000 vehicles per day, he said.
The project’s original cost was estimated at $35 million, Taylor noted. But by drawing on federal funds, using county employees for construction inspections and dividing the roadwork into three phases over four years, Taylor said the project was able to come up with significant savings. The economy was also a factor, he added.
“The economy took a downturn, and we received a lot better bids than we would have gotten back in 2008 when the economy was doing better,” Taylor explained.
The section stretching from C.R. 28 to C.R. 30 was built for about $7.5 million. The second portion of the project from C.R. 30 to C.R. 32 cost $2.9 million. Both of those sections were supported by federal money that paid for 80 percent of the work, Taylor said. The last four-lane section from C.R. 32 to C.R. 38 was completely locally funded for about $10 million.
After Friday, the highway department will stay focused on C.R. 17 with plans to build two lanes extending from C.R. 38 south to C.R. 40.
“We wanted to get that done this year, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen because we have to do a design, and we have to acquire some right of way,” Taylor said. “It’s a gravel road, so there is a little bit of earthwork that needs to be done, so it wasn’t as simple as just paving the road. There is quite a bit of work to do, so next year that will get completed.”