Elkhart overpass construction by end of 2013?
Posted: 06/17/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Dan Spalding
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A car travels over the railroad tracks on Prairie Street just south of Middlebury Street as the crossing arms lower Nov. 10, 2010. The city has long planned to build an overpass at this crossing.
Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard
The long-awaited construction of the overpass could begin by the end of 2013, according to the city.
The project would cost roughly $23.6 million and the federal government would cover 80 percent, leaving the city to provide about $4.72 million.
Moore will pitch the idea sometime in July to members of the city council, the redevelopment commission and the board of works, all of which have a role in the project, according to a press release issued by the city.
The city could potentially tap in money from Tax Increment Financing, the Economic Development Income Tax and money from the city’s Major Moves account.
The local share would include a mandatory contribution from Norfolk Southern Railroad, which operates the railroad tracks.
The city is working with Michiana Area Council on Government, a regional transportation planning agency, to come up with a local funding strategy.
“The mayor and MACOG believe that it is important to move this project as quickly as practical for the good of Elkhart to avoid any losses of appropriated funds possible as the federal government continues to reduce transportation funding,” the statement from the city said.
Details about land acquisition needed for the project and other apsects were not available Friday. City engineer Mike Machlan could not be reached for comment.
If constructed, the overpass would represent a key improvement in helping ease north-south traffic congestion that is often created by train traffic on the south edge of the city’s downtown business district.
Currently, motorists northbound on Main Street can avoid traffic backups from trains by using the Benham Avenue underpass two blocks to the west of Main.
The Prairie Street overpass would provide a similar alternative to the east of Main Street.
“That will really enhance our north-south traffic flow,” Moore said Friday in a phone conversation from Florida where he’s attending a national mayor’s conference.
Alleviating congestion has been a goal of the city for years. Moore contends that Main Street should not be considered as a thoroughfare.
Moore thinks Prairie Street could become one of the best north-south routes for through traffic.
Motorsists headed north can avoid the downtown business district by taking Main Street east to Prairie Street, then north on Johnson Street, east on Bristol Street and north on Cassopolis Street, which leads to the Indiana Toll Road.
Under the current scenario, the city could seek bids for the project in September of 2013 and construction could follow soon afterward, the city news release said.
An average of about 120 trains use the tracks every day.
Among other things, the overpass would help reduce emissions, save on gasoline consumption and speed up deliver times for area delivery trucks.
And it would eliminate the sound of train whistles in the immediate area.
“That will make a lot of people happy,” Moore said. “And I think that will make St. Vincent’s Catholic Church very happy as well.”