The SR 23 widening project in Granger is almost finished. Indiana's Department of Transportation says all lanes should be open by early August. The construction has been a headache for drivers but many will be happy with the finished product. Some homeowner, on the other hand, will feel the affects for decades.
The traffic along State Road 23 is growing by the minute. About 16,000 cars a day drive the stretch between Capital and Bittersweet in Granger. Studies show that in less than 20 years that number will shoot up to 25,000.
"There is a lot of traffic that goes through here," says Natasha, a Granger resident.
"When you have bottleneck jams like they had before, that was dangerous. Anything was an improvement," says David Duncan, who drives the road for his job.
The Granger/State Road 23 project is on track to be completed in just a couple weeks. And most drivers couldn't be happier.
"I think it will be safer," says Jesse Hampton of Granger.
"More room. There are turn lanes," says Fred Baker of Cassopolis
Homeowners who live along the highway, on the other hand, are still getting used to the changes.
"It is a shame. It was nice and quiet out here," says Jim Temple, who has lived along the road for 32 years.
Temple has paid the price for progress. He lost about 10 feet of his property and the DOT was open with him about how the widening project will hurt property values. But Temple says the benefits far outweigh the negatives. He says this improvement will make the road safer for drivers -- and he now has a sidewalk.
"We like watching the people go by. We have taken walks which we never would on the highway before and that really makes it nice," says Temple.
There are more than a dozen homes that sit along State Road 23 between Capital Avenue and Bittersweet. INDOT says 15 acres had to be acquired to make this project possible -- and those acres came from the front lawns of those residents. Residents like Temple and Shirley Birkey.
"You know, you learn to live with what progress is," says Birkey.
Birkey and her husband, plan to sell their house in the next few years. She is hopefull, but ultimately doesn't know how the road will affect a potential sale. For the time being though, she loves her house no matter what is in front of it.
An INDOT spokesperson says as with any INDOT project that requires taking land from homeowners, the residents received "fair market value."
Not everyone along the road is happy about the progress. Some are frustrated the project took so long. Others now find themselves too close to the busy road. And some believe another problem has yet to be addressed: The railroad tracks that cross State Road 23 near Bittersweet Road continue to back up traffic. Many people who live and drive along the road wish that something could have been done about that. But INDOT says part of SR 23 was widened previously and there was consideration about building an overpass for the tracks back then. But it was determined that would be a very poor economic decision for the area, because it would eliminate access to the many developing businesses there.
The Granger project is one of the last two legs of State Road 23 to get the four-lane upgrade. After it is completed next month, the State Road 23/five points project in South Bend will be the only 23 project on the docket. Once that is done, SR 23 will be a four-lane highway for the entire stretch from South Bend to Granger.