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McClatchy-Tribune  07/04/2014 6:16 AM ET
U.S. 30 opens ahead of schedule [The Times, Munster, Ind. :: ]

July 04--A 12-hour emergency closure on a 9-mile stretch of U.S. 30 that was expected to snarl traffic during the morning rush Thursday was nearly complete in just 2 1/2 hours.

Most of the stretch of U.S. 30 between Interstate 65 and U.S. 41 was open to traffic in the predawn darkness, except the intersection at Taft Street, in Merrillville.

U.S. 30 at Taft was open to one lane of traffic in each direction by 7 a.m., while work on damaged traffic signals continued. By 2 p.m., the signals were fixed and the intersection was functioning as normal.

Matt Deitchley, an Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman, said he was pleased much of the work was completed ahead of schedule.

The severe weather that swept through the region Monday night resulted in downed power lines on U.S. 30 that permanently damaged multiple traffic signals.

"NIPSCO's repair of damaged power lines from recent severe weather was completed much earlier than expected and did not adversely affect the power grid INDOT traffic signals are on, which also was expected," Deitchley said.

INDOT initially forecast the emergency closure would last from 10 p.m. Wednesday until 10 a.m. Thursday.

Deitchley announced Wednesday that cross streets also would be affected by the U.S. 30 closure, with Taft Street shut down at the intersection. Other cross roads also were expected to be closed or restricted at times.

"It's an emergency closure," Deitchley said Wednesday. "It's not a typical closure. The big message we are telling everyone is your absolute best bet, unless you really need to be there, is just avoid the entire area altogether."

Emergency responders were alerted, he said. The closure was to be enforced by Indiana State Police.

U.S. 30 is a main east-west artery that handles about 45,000 vehicles a day, with a good portion consisting of truck traffic.

Businesses along U.S. 30 reacted with shock Wednesday afternoon to the news, scrambling to put together plans to grant patrons access, then figuring how to get them back out.

Traffic on U.S. 30 was light Thursday morning, with motorists clearly heeding INDOT's warnings from the previous day. Normally bustling businesses like the McDonald's at Taney Place and U.S. 30 were nearly empty.

NIPSCO's work focused on Taft Street, where a 69,000-volt line and a 12,500-volt line came down, said NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer.

The utility was coordinating its work with INDOT's planned closure of U.S. 30 to minimize disruptions for motorists, Meyer said.

NIPSCO's responsibility is the electric lines that feed the signals, while INDOT uses its crews or contractors to repair the signals themselves.


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