TIPTON – The Tipton Board of Commissioners approved amendments to the county’s comprehensive plan on Tuesday in the hopes of drawing the Indiana Department of Transportation’s attention to needed interchanges and overpasses along the U.S. 31 corridor.
The amendments were proposed by the Tipton Planning Commission and highlight “three proposed and needed interchanges” at Division Road, County Road 450 North and County Road 600 South to secure access onto the major highway from various points throughout the county.
According to Tipton County Planning Commission Executive Director Steve Niblick, there’s no guarantee that INDOT will provide the funding and means for each of the proposed projects, but he also added that there’s no chance the projects will be done without the changes to the comprehensive plan.
“We may get some, we may not get any – you just don’t know. But if it’s not in the local plan, it’s not even going to be considered,” said Niblick.
INDOT has been working on an ongoing initiative to make U.S. 31 a non-stop highway from Indianapolis to South Bend, and individual counties’ comprehensive plans play a role in INDOT’s decision of which projects along the corridor move forward.
For Tipton County, the comprehensive plan encourages an interchange at Division Road most prominently. A proposal for an interchange at that site was in the plan before the amendments were approved on Tuesday.
That intersection was the source of some concern earlier in the year when the Tipton County Economic Development Organization started an online petition asking for an interchange at the currently stop-lighted intersection, with the concern that access to U.S. 31 would be cut off completely from Division Road.
During an interview with the Tribune in January, Tipton County Sheriff Tony Frawley expressed concern about losing access to U.S. 31 at that intersection.
“Any time you limit access to a major highway, that has a negative effect on the response time of emergency vehicles,” he said.
Niblick also mentioned emergency response times when referencing what he considers the next most important proposed interchange at 450 North.
“If there was an accident on 31, where would Sharpsville Fire access that highway?” said Niblick, who noted that there is an interchange on U.S. 31 in Howard County to the north of Sharpsville.
An amendment to the comprehensive plan specifically states if INDOT denies an interchange at Division Road, the county “should advocate for a second interchange in the northern section of the county at CR 450 N. This interchange would help ensure long term viability of commercial and industrial development within the northern portion” of the corridor.
The third proposed interchange, located at 600 South, would best be approached with cooperation with neighboring Hamilton County.
“It is unlikely that interchanges would be built on U.S. 31 in both the northern area of Hamilton County and the southern part of Tipton County,” states the comprehensive plan. “However, an interchange serving the southern portion of Tipton County would provide the social, public safety and agricultural link necessary for future growth of … this predominately rural area.”
If interchanges are denied at both 450 North and 600 South, the plan advocates for overpasses to be built there instead, and also proposes an overpass at 200 North, stating that these “primary overpasses” represent “connections that are critical to the functioning of the county as a social and economic entity.”