St. Joseph Valley Parkway
|St. Joseph Valley Parkway|
|Maintained by INDOT, MDOT|
|Length:||56.34 mi[a] (90.67 km)|
| US 20 from Elkhart, IN to South Bend, IN
US 31 from South Bend, IN to near Benton Harbor, MI
|East end:||US 20 near Elkhart, IN|
|US 12 near Niles, MI|
|North end:||US 31 near Benton Harbor, MI|
|Counties:||IN: Elkhart, St. Joseph MI: Berrien|
The St. Joseph Valley Parkway is a freeway in the U.S. states of Indiana and Michigan, serving as a bypass route around Elkhart, Mishawaka, and South Bend in Indiana and Niles in Michigan. The freeway runs to the south and west of Elkhart and South Bend and Niles and consists of segments of U.S. Route 31 (US 31) and US 20; those two highway designations run concurrently at the southwestern rim of the South Bend metropolitan area. It continues north to run along the St. Joseph River valley.
The freeway was first built in Indiana in the 1960s, although plans in Michigan date back to the 1950s. Indiana completed its portion of the freeway in 1998, while Michigan has opened its last segment in 2003. Further plans, if completed, would extend the freeway from the current end to the north. The ultimate end will either be at the interchange between Interstate 196 (I-196) and I-94 as originally planned, or another interchange immediately to the southwest. Environmental and other issues have forced a re-evaluation of the original 1981 plans for the northern end of the freeway.
The Parkway begins where US 20 expands to a divided highway southeast of Elkhart. To the east in Indiana the freeway feeds into an undivided segment of US 20 at County Road 17 (CR 17). From there it runs westward along the south sides of Elkhart and Mishawaka. South of South Bend, US 31 joins the Parkway, and then the Parkway turns northward along the west side of South Bend. Along this segment, US 20 turns back west and leaves the Parkway. The Parkway meets the Indiana Toll Road which carries I-80/I-90 before crossing the state line into Michigan. West of Niles, the Parkway meets US 12 and continues northwesterly running west of Berrien Springs. From there it runs northward to end at Napier Avenue east of St. Joseph. The St. Joseph Valley Parkway ends at Napier Avenue, but US 31 continues as a five-lane highway west along Napier to connect with I-94 and the rest of the US 31 routing north of there on I-196.
The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) both maintain the sections of the St. Joseph Valley Parkway in their respective states. Additionally, both departments have listed their freeway segments as part of the National Highway System, a system of roads important to the nation's economy, defense, and mobility. The two departments conduct surveys to measure the traffic levels along their roadways. This measurement is expressed in terms of annual average daily traffic (AADT) which is a calculation of the traffic volume on a stretch of roadway for any average day of the year. INDOT's figures for 2007 showed that 30,753 vehicles used the freeway near its western end. The traffic volume drops to 19,914 vehicles near the Indiana Toll Road. In Michigan, the levels drop as low as 7,402 vehicles near the Napier Road interchange.
The "St. Joseph Valley Parkway" name was chosen by local chambers of commerce in the fall of 1992 as the result of a local contest held by a group of local businesses. The name was officially adopted by Michigan in 1993 (dedicated late 1995) and Indiana in 1995 (dedicated in mid-1995).
The first section of the St. Joseph Valley Parkway was completed between US 20 and State Road 2 (SR 2) by 1962. The freeway was extended to SR 23 and construction was started to extend it further to US 31. The freeway was given the Bypass US 20 (BYP US 20) designation at this time as well. This extension to US 31 was completed in the mid-1970s. The exit with the Indiana East–West Toll Road/I-80/I-90 was finished in 1979. The BYP US 20 designation was replaced by the US 31 designation in 1982. Construction in the early 1990s extended the freeway in sections from US 31/Business US 31 (BUS US 31) to its current end with US 20 at CR 17, with the portion from US 31/BUS US 31 to SR 331 (Bremen Highway) paved first, by 1991. Ramps from Nimtz Parkway were completed in 1998, and the portion in Elkhart was also named the "Dean R. Mock Expressway" in March 2002.
A plan to relocate US 31 in Berrien County, Michigan, existed as early as 1952. Planning to extend the South Bend Bypass northward into Michigan as a bypass of Niles began in 1967. A report issued in 1970 detailed four routing corridors, spawning a lawsuit over how Berrien Springs would be bypassed. Construction was to begin in 1975, but the Michigan State Highways Department delayed construction plans in 1972, pushing the start to 1977. The first section was completed in 1979 and ran from the state line north to US 12. From there, US 31 was routed east along US 12 to BUS US 12 and north along BUS US 12 to the former routing of US 31/US 33. Final plans for the routing north to I-94 were approved in 1981. Construction of the Niles Bypass was finished in 1987, bringing the freeway north to Walton Road northwest of Niles. BUS US 31 was created along the former routing in Niles and Walton Road was rebuilt as a state trunkline connection between the northern end of the freeway and the former two-lane routing of US 31. The Berrien Springs Bypass was opened in late 1992. Since then, MDOT built a 9.1-mile (14.6 km) freeway segment north to Napier Avenue that was opened on August 27, 2003 at a cost of $97 million (equivalent to $122 million today).
East of Benton Harbor, Michigan, the St. Joseph Valley Parkway extension was under study due to environmental, economical and historical site issues. One of the environmental concerns relates to the habitat of an endangered species, the Mitchell's Satyr butterfly that has its habitat in the area of the freeway extension. The 40-acre (16 ha) habitat is home to the second-largest population of the rare butterfly. This freeway connection was originally approved in 1981 as part of a final environmental impact study that included the freeway built from Niles northward to Napier Avenue. Since that approval, the butterfly was discovered in the Blue Creek Fen in the late 1980s, and it was listed an endangered species in 1992. The listing stalled construction of the freeway north of Berrien Springs. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued an opinion two years later that the freeway project would jeopardize the species. MDOT was given permission to modify the previously approved freeway to cross the Blue Creek on longer bridges; the USFWS also required that any construction be done from elevated platforms, among other restrictions. In the interim, MDOT proceeded with construction of the southern portion of the last freeway segment, completing the freeway northward from Berrien Springs to the Napier Avenue interchange in August 2003.
A revised environmental impact study to account for the butterfly's habitat was approved in 2004. The study compared the original proposal for this extension that involved connecting directly to I-196 at I-94 with a pair of alternate routines that involved connecting US 31 directly to BL I-94 at I-94 near Benton Harbor with auxiliary lanes to I-196. The recommendation was to use the PA-2 version of the alternative connection to avoid the Blue Creek Fen. At the time the last freeway segment was opened in 2003, MDOT expected the remaining segment would not take much longer to complete, but since then, funding has not been available. Construction of the extension was not included for this reason in MDOT's 2014–18 highway projects plan released in 2013, although most of the design work and land acquisition is done. Until the freeway is complete, US 31 follows a stretch of Napier Avenue, which was upgraded in conjunction with the St. Joseph Valley Parkway opening to that point, westward to I-94. The US 31/I-94/BL I-94 interchange will be converted to a cloverleaf interchange if a connection is completed in the future, and the St. Joseph Valley Parkway name has already been applied to this unbuilt section.
|Indiana||Elkhart||Elkhart||98.65||158.76||99|| US 20 east
|Eastern terminus as US 20 becomes a freeway|
|95.55||153.77||96||US 33 south||Northern terminus of US 33|
|St. Joseph||Mishawaka||84.75||136.39||86||SR 331 north (Elm Road)||Eastern end of SR 331 concurrency|
|82.75||133.17||84||SR 331 south (Bremen Highway)||Western end of SR 331 concurrency|
|South Bend||78.83||126.86||79||US 31 south||Southern end of US 20/US 31 concurrency; milepost 253.94 on US 31|
|72.88||117.29||73||SR 2 west||Eastern terminus of SR 2|
|70.53||113.51||71||US 20 west||Northern end of US 20/US 31 concurrency; milepost 262.24 on US 31|
|263.93||424.75||264||I-80 / I-90 / Ind. Toll Rd.||Exit 72 on Ind. Toll Rd.|
|Indiana–Michigan state line|
|Michigan||Berrien||Bertrand Township||3.287||5.290||3||US 12|
|Niles Charter Township||4.852||7.809||5||Niles–Buchanan Road|
|6.777||10.907||7||Walton Road||Former BUS US 31|
|Oronoko Charter Township||12.987||20.901||13||Snow Road|
|Sodus Township||18.080||29.097||18||Tabor Road|
|Benton Charter Township||24.441||39.334||24||US 31 north (Napier Avenue) to I-94||Northern terminus of St. Joseph Valley Parkway; US 31 continues on Napier Avenue|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
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