LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - When the 12-mile, Lafayette-to-Delphi stretch of the Hoosier Heartland Highway opened Oct. 24, Tippecanoe County Sheriff Tracy Brown braced for the worst.
Would drivers understand how to navigate the large roundabout, where the new, four-lane Indiana 25 North connects with its former two-lane, rural predecessor? And would drivers take advantage of the smooth, pothole-free Hoosier Heartland and speed or otherwise drive recklessly?
Thus far, the sheriff is pleased that his concerns are mostly unfounded.
"We've been spending time out there, monitoring traffic flow and speed," Brown told the Journal & Courier . "So far, there's been nothing out of the ordinary.
"We're pretty happy with the Hoosier Heartland — it got done faster than we thought it would be, it's well-designed and it helps you move quickly from point A to point B. ... We monitored the roundabout when it first opened because that's one of the first here to have that traffic mix."
Drivers agree with that assessment.
"It's a nice, smooth ride. Makes my drive a lot better," Lafayette resident Rich Davis said while stopping to fill up his gas tank on a weekday earlier this month. "I've had no problems whatsoever."
Added Lafayette resident Jerry Harris: "My wife has family near Delphi. We'll be taking this road more, getting up there to visit more."
The long-anticipated Hoosier Heartland is a four-lane highway that will connect Lafayette to Logansport. It replaces the former Indiana 25 North, a rural highway constructed in the 1930s.
The new route incorporates part of the old highway, which — with its numerous winding curves — was long the site of vehicle crashes as its use changed significantly over the years.
Since 1993, at least 59 people have died in wrecks on Old Indiana 25 between Lafayette and Logansport, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data and Journal & Courier archives.
The Hoosier Heartland hasn't been entirely problem-free, however.
Sgt. Kim Riley, public information officer for the Indiana State Police post in Lafayette, said a trooper recently was telling co-workers about clocking a vehicle going more than 80 mph in northern Tippecanoe County.
That was countered by another trooper, Riley said, who stopped someone going nearly 110 mph, also in Tippecanoe County. The posted speed limit on the Hoosier Heartland is 60 mph.
Drivers were ticketed for speeding. No one was injured.
"It wasn't drag racing. Basically, they said they wanted to test out the new road," Riley said.
Last week, the Indiana Department of Transportation began switching traffic on Old Indiana 25 between Rockfield and Burrows in Carroll County to the newly completed lanes.
Previously, only two miles of the Hoosier Heartland had been open for drivers in Carroll County, Maj. Tobe Leazenby of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office said. The department has investigated only one minor crash on the new highway.
"It's been quiet for us on this end," he said.
With the Hoosier Heartland open, that doesn't mean fewer patrols will focus on Old Indiana 25.
Brown said he actually anticipates putting more deputies there, out of concerns that some people start using it as a personal racetrack.
"There's this notion that with the lighter traffic, they can speed to make up time," he said. "We may end up seeing people going faster on a roadway that has always had a high frequency of crashes.
"We want people to know we haven't forgotten about Old State Road 25. ... Our hope is that, with reduced volume, we'll see an overall drop in the number of crashes there."
As much as 4 inches of snow fell in some places by early Friday morning, and a winter storm warning continues in Central Indiana until Friday night.
A car ended up in the water early Friday morning, as drivers tried to make their way despite snow that fell overnight.
State police are warning Indiana residents about a phone scam that has been reported in central Indiana where grandparents are swindled out of money by con artists who tell them about a fake emergency.