U.S. 30 is a key 155 mile traffic artery that runs between the Illinois and Ohio state lines.
For most of its length, it is classified as a limited access highway, which means that at-grade intersections or driveway cuts are not allowed unless a permit is issued. However, through the years many permits have been issued so that today it should probably be considered limited access in name only.
Along with the proliferation of access permits issued, there has been growth in the number of traffic signals at intersections — 40 of them between I-65 and I-69 alone. All of this has impeded traffic flow and contributed to the number of accidents as vehicles enter and leave the highway.
A U.S. 30 Coalition has been formed to advocate that the roadway become a freeway between I-69 near Fort Wayne to Ind. 49 at Valparaiso. If achieved, there would be no direct access from driveways and no at-grade crossings. Overpasses and frontage roads would help provide the local access that residents, businesses and farmers need. The Coalition is stressing that local planning groups need to be formed in each county to provide input on how best to design the improvements so that local access needs are considered as they plan improvements that will improve traffic flow and safety.
The Indiana Department of Transportation has recognized the need for enhancement of U.S. 30, placing the proposal to convert U.S. 30 to freeway status from I-69 to Ind. 49 high on the priority list for new construction in its Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Infrastructure Recommendations. Among the factors considered in setting the priority:
• Need for traffic flow enhancement
• High levels of truck traffic (currently reportedly more than 30 percent of total traffic)
• Forecast that the upgrade would lead to 323 fewer accidents and four fewer fatalities each year
• Projected accident cost savings of $715 million per year
• Positive impact on economic growth in the area, supporting creation of more than 10,500 jobs over a 20-year period.
As important as these efforts may be, I believe that it is unfortunate that the Coalition is currently only looking at the segment of U.S. 30 between I-69 and Ind. 49. Although this section may be the sector most adaptable to freeway status, the remaining sectors — between Ind. 49 and the Illinois state line and between I-69 and the Ohio state line — have important congestion and safety needs that should be addressed.
Coalitions in other states — notably Ohio and Iowa — are evaluating ways to enhance U.S. 30 from border to border. Indiana should do the same. The Northwest Indiana Planning Commission (NIRPC) is currently considering a proposal to make U.S. 30 more accessible, attractive and pedestrian- and bicycle- friendly in the Merrillville and Hobart areas. As worthy as this effort may be, it would be most unfortunate for it to proceed without looking at the plan for enhancing traffic flow, safety and access of the total roadway.
The Mid-America Freight Coalition has noted that the U.S. 30 Corridor across Indiana qualifies as a Tier 2 corridor in the national freight corridor network due to its truck volumes and pronounced connections to other interstates and manufacturing facilities.
Enhancing U.S. 30 is clearly a high priority from many standpoints. Hopefully it will be done in such a way as local access needs and interests can be balanced with the needs to reduce congestion and enhance safety — and it shouldn’t be limited just to the section between I-69 and Ind. 49.
Leigh E. Morris is former President and CEO of La Porte Hospital and former Mayor of La Porte