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Several counties, cities look to rename old U.S. 31

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A celebration was held Wednesday for the area's newest highway -- that you may have already driven on.

Governor Mike Pence took part in the official opening of the new U.S. 31 from South Bend to Plymouth this afternoon.

The highway's been open to traffic for almost a week, but today's ceremony dedicated the new stretch in honor of the late Dick Mangus, a former state lawmaker, who was a driving force behind construction of the highway.

Pence says the new 31 will save lives and help revitalize Indiana's economy.

"I'm convinced it's going to make our roads safer, it's going to mean jobs and opportunities for our area," Pence said today at the ceremony. "And with Indiana having such a critical location in the economic life of our nation, this is just going to put us in a more competitive position to attract investors and create jobs in the long term."

The new 31 also includes a bypass around Kokomo that opened last year and a new 31 north of Indianapolis that is scheduled to open late next year.

Renaming the old U.S. 31

As for the old U.S. 31, several counties and cities are still working out what to rename it, in order to avoid confusing it with the new 31.

But it's not as simple as just giving it a new name. It all has to do with who is taking care of that stretch of the highway.

Until now, the state has been maintaining that road, but now it's giving local communities the chance to take their own stretches of the old 31 back.

The city of South Bend has expressed interest in taking over control of their part, so it has the option to rename it.

But several people we talked to today say they hope the new name is exactly what we've been calling it all along: the old U.S. 31.

Marsha Bolin is the owner of Chickadee's -- the gift shop that sits on the old 31. They specialize in knick-knacks and decorations.

Like many other stores on the old highway, Chickadee's depends on the traffic coming through from other cities for business.

So Marsha's hoping customers will take that extra detour from the new 31 to get to her store.

"Now they took the road from me, and put it over there. So now it's like, 'OK, guys, we're still here! We haven't moved. The road moved, but we haven't, you know," Bolin says.

Right now, Chickadee's address is still U.S. 31, but that could change next year, if the City of South Bend decides to rename it.

It's already happening in St. Joseph County and in Lakeville -- the old 31 will now be called 931.

In Marshall County, including Lapaz and Plymouth the highway will be called Michigan Road.

Marsha's vote is for no change at all.

"I think it would be less confusion, because right now there's enough confusion for people. Then you start changing addresses, and that would be so totally unnecessary."

She says calling it anything besides the old 31 would be an extra burden -- making it even harder to bring new business in.

"Me, I'm just pretty much out here, going, 'OK, I hope I have something that somebody wants, or they remember I'm here.' I'm just kind of like a sitting duck, waiting."

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