Arcadia business owner questions US 31 project

ARCADIA, Ind. (WISH) — One local business owner is frustrated and says a long-term construction project is costing him dearly. INDOT says the purpose of the project is to improve the safety and mobility of U.S. 31 within Hamilton and Tipton counties. But it’s making it harder for people to reach a well-known farm market.

The project upgrades U.S. 31 to a limited access corridor. This means INDOT will eliminate some access points along the way and build interchanges and overpasses at some locations from State Road 38 up to State Road 931. All other local cross streets will be converted into cul-de-sacs.

Local business owner Scott Wilson says a majority of his business comes from traffic along 31. Without that, he says it’s going to make it challenging for customers to find a different way to the store.

The parking lot is always packed at Wilson Farm Market.

“Probably 35% local and the rest is coming off 31 one way or the other,” he said.

It’s a third-generation family business and has been in the same location, at U.S. 31 and 256th Street, since 1968.

“I found an old photo, one of the original photos when my grandparents had it,” Wilson said. “It says like potatoes were 49 cents.”

Without an exchange, customers will have two options. They can exit two miles south on 236th Street or two miles north at 276th Street.

“Traffic would have to come four or five miles through the country to get there,” he said.

INDOT completed a corridor study in 2017 and reviewed safety data from 2014 to 2016. It indicated that in Hamilton and Tipton counties, 88% of crashes happened within 1,000 feet of an intersection.

“It’s a big deal,” Wilson said. “Huge massive gaps with no exchanges at all.”

Currently, INDOT is still in the process of completing an environmental assessment so everything proposed is preliminary and could change. Right now, the plan shows 256th Street as a cul-de-sac, which would not provide the farm market direct access to U.S. 31.

Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt says the county’s comprehensive plan shows an access.

“I don’t think that people realize that there is not a lot of places to be able to go around there to get groceries,” he said.

Farmers in the area could also be impacted.

“My brother farms directly across the road and my neighbor farms directly behind the market,” Wilson said. “Those two guys will have to drive seven miles to get to those properties that are 100 yards apart.”

But there is a way to possibly get an exchange. Heirbrandt says it’s not uncommon for the county to go after federal funding.

“It will probably come down to some type of money contribution,” he said.

Wilson will continue to fight for his business and isn’t afraid to make it known.

“Sometimes the cheapest solution is not the correct solution,” he said.