Mayor, city leaders pledge to help businesses during U.S. 31 construction
By Sophie Pappas
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard has been hitting the gym several times a week, and using his handy Fitbit bracelet to help him stay in tip-top shape.
“I used to wear my Fitbit,” he said, laughingly, “And now I’ve got something to make me eat more.”
At a press conference last Thursday[DATE], Brainard addressed the crowd about the launching of a new program to support Carmel businesses and restaurants along U.S. 31. The program, appropriately titled 31 Bites, is an effort to encourage people to eat at the restaurants along U.S. 31 during the month of August, and into the fall. Orange bracelets, provided by the city and now worn by the mayor, have a flashing light and words that read: “#31Bites, Eat Local, Shop Local.”
The U.S. 31 highway project has been in progress for more than two years, with road closures starting in Westfield and slowly creeping their way into Carmel. But for Brainard and other city leaders, this is no excuse for the people of Carmel to not patronize the business affected by road closures and construction.
“We are here today to really show support for Carmel’s local businesses along U.S. 31 who have had a challenging summer with the current highway project,” Brainard said. “We absolutely support [the Indiana Dept. Transportation’s]decision to close the highway. It saves millions, it’s a safer work environment for workers, it gets the job done faster … Folks in this area need a little extra attention. This is about them.”
The hashtag of #31Bites was created by social media guru and Carmel resident, Dan McFeely, who is a contracted worker for the city. McFeely said that he hopes people will eat at restaurants along U.S. 31, take photos of themselves doing so, and post their pictures to Twitter or Facebook pages, with the hashtag #31bites.
“We wanted to kind of create this frenzy on Facebook,” McFeely said.
Some of the restaurants mostly affected by the road closures include Brunchies, J.C.’s Deli, and J. Rozzo’s.
Carmel Chamber of Commerce president Mo Merhoff said that she knows construction projects are always hard for local businesses, but that she hopes people “re-learn” streets and start to take smaller, local roads to reach work or home.
“The quicker the completion, the easier it is for those businesses to adjust and recover any lost traffic,” she said. “In this case, Carmel’s having frontage roads like Illinois and Pennsylvania streets means finding an alternate way to get to your favorite businesses is still possible.”
Brandye Hendrickson, an INDOT district deputy commissioner who has been working in Carmel, said that closing highways is never an easy decision.
“We understand the inconveniences experienced during construction,” she said. “We want everyone to know that while a section of U.S. 31 is closed until Thanksgiving, Carmel businesses remain open and so do the local routes to reach them.”
Hendrickson said that INDOT is in partnership with mapping companies such as Google Maps and Garmin Navigation, in order to provide people the most up-to-date information on how to get to their destinations.
“It’s important that people remember to keep with software updated,” she said, in regards to iPhone applications such as Maps and Google Maps.
She noted that if people have updated software, then they should be redirected via their navigation systems. Also, people can sign up for text message updates from INDOT about Carmel traffic, by registering at the website: www.us31HamiltonCounty.in.gov.