Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An excavator travels in a section of U.S. 20 to be widened, just west of S.R. 15, on March 23, 2014. Some local officials have touted construction of a bypass just east of this road section that would lead to the Indiana Toll Road, but a state panel in a July 9, 2014, report nixed the idea, at least in the near term. (J. Tyler Klassen / The Elkhart Truth, File) (Buy this photo)
Special panel nixes idea of Middlebury area bypass to Indiana Toll Road, at least for now
Posted on July 16, 2014 at 3:48 p.m.

Some Elkhart County officials have long dreamed of a bypass around Middlebury, a new road linking U.S. 20 west of the city to the Indiana Toll Road farther north.

Don’t expect it soon, not within the next 10 years, anyway. A group tabbed with looking into state road issues, the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Infrastructure, removed the proposal from the list of projects meriting more immediate attention, deeming others more worthy in the coming 10-year period. The list came in a report issued July 9.

Here’s a map (courtesy of the Blue Ribbon Panel study) showing the alignment of the proposed road, which would go northeasterly from S.R. 15 between Bristol and Goshen to the Indiana Toll Road:

The report didn’t spell out why the project didn’t rise to the level of other proposals. Broadly, though, it said the metrics used to gauge varied road proposals around the state included the impact each would have on reducing congestion and improving transport of goods and people. Proximity to airport, port, rail and other hubs also factored.

Elkhart County Council President John Letherman, for one, has touted the long-term goal of building a bypass around Middlebury to the toll road.

The Elkhart County road proposal, according to the blue ribbon report, would cost $193.64 million. It would reduce commuter congestion on S.R. 13, now the key route to the toll road from Middlebury, and route commercial traffic outside more urbanized areas, improving freight movement. It would also augment access to the toll road for manufacturers in the Goshen and Middlebury areas, the report said.

The blue ribbon panel is an advisory group to Gov. Mike Pence. Among the road project proposals getting the highest marks were upgrades to I-65, I-70 and I-69.

Though the bypass project didn’t get high marks, U.S. 20 has been getting plenty of attention. INDOT is in the midst of widening the roadway east of Elkhart to S.R. 15. The S.R. 15-U.S. 20 crossing received a facelift in 2009.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.