KOKOMO — The new U.S. 31 bypass around stoplight-plagued Kokomo is set to open just in time for Thanksgiving holiday travelers.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony with Gov. Mike Pence and other dignitaries is scheduled for Tuesday near the southern end of the new 13-mile stretch around Kokomo's east side, the Indiana Department of Transportation announced Thursday.
The bypass opening is a key step in the state's project to upgrade the most-congested sections of U.S. 31 between Indianapolis and South Bend.
The event, which will feature the Kokomo High School band, will be followed by a ceremonial drive to the northern end of the bypass and a reception at the Kokomo Automotive Museum, agency spokesman Harry Maginity said.
Highway crews will remove barricades and open the bypass to motorists that afternoon following the ceremony, he said.
The bypass will allow drivers to avoid 15 traffic signals on the highway's current route through the city. Construction of the bypass, which has five interchanges, began in 2008.
The current highway, renumbered Indiana 931, is open and goes through the city's main commercial area, passing several automotive factories.
The state project is turning the most-heavily traveled parts of the 120-mile route between Indianapolis and South Bend into a limited-access highway.
A new 20-mile stretch of U.S. 31 south of South Bend is expected to open late next year. Work also is ongoing on building interchanges and other upgrades to the highway through the northern Indianapolis suburbs of Carmel and Westfield.