US 31 project will take a bite out of profits for Carmel businesses
The section of US 31 from Old Meridian Street to 136th Street will close in both directions on or after April 4th, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation. The eight-month closure will give crews enough time to take out traffic lights and upgrade the roadway to freeway standards.
At Jersey's Café in Carmel, the food is decidedly East Coast, but the service is a taste of the Midwest.
These days, the question is one of logistics. Customers are asking how they'll be able to get to the café, and the staff is unsure.
With traffic on nearby US 31 set to come to a standstill in just a few weeks for a period of eight months, the impact to all businesses in the area could be devastating.
"If people have to be inconvenienced to get here, why would they take the time to do it? They're not going to sit in a traffic jam just to sit here and eat when they can go somewhere else," said Blair Laing, owner of Jersey's Café.
31 will be upgraded to freeway standards, with no traffic lights and a faster commute. The Hamilton County closure wasn't supposed to happen until next year, but utilities have been moved faster than anticipated so the project can begin.
"We recognize this wasn't the plan originally, so we wanted to make sure we gave the public some notice," explained Nathan Riggs, an INDOT spokesman.
Drivers will need to figure out ways around the closure and plan for extra time.
"I think it could cause a lot of longer commutes for a lot of people who use 31 as a main access point to get to 465 or 146th," said motorist Zac Ashley, who drives the stretch of roadway regularly.
"That's my favorite sandwich out of everything on that menu," said a waitress at Jersey's, explaining the menu to a customer.
At the café, the impact to business will be real. They anticipate laying off as many as five employees and taking a serious financial hit.
"I know that in the end it's going to be a beautiful concept, but right now we're all going to have to suffer until we get to that point," said Laing.
According to INDOT, there are no incentives to finish early but there are penalties if the contractor does not finish by Thanksgiving.
The project is supposed to reduce the three-hour travel time from Indianapolis to South Bend by 30 minutes.