GOSHEN — Highway crews will be busy on the south side of Goshen for the next couple of years.
The Elkhart County Highway Department has several road and bridge projects coming up, and at least five are south of Goshen. Highway officials updated members of the Elkhart County Council and Elkhart County Board of Commissioners with a plan Friday, Feb. 7, for construction projects, road maintenance and other improvements spanning the next decade.
County engineer Jay Grossman highlighted a few of the projects that will be beginning this year. First, the highway department is building a two-lane road on C.R. 17 from C.R. 38 south to C.R. 40. The $1.5 million extension is expected to be complete in August, he said. After that section of C.R. 17 is paved, the highway department will get to work on extending the road farther south to C.R. 142. The second part of the project is expected to cost another $300,000.
The highway department plans to remove sharp curves this year on C.R. 40 between C.R. 19 and C.R. 21. The project is estimated at $400,000.
“There’s been a number of slide-offs there and accidents,” Grossman said.
Another project set to begin this year includes improvements to the intersection at C.R. 38 and S.R. 15.
A handful of upcoming road and bridge projects are joint ventures between the county and city of Goshen, highway manager Jeff Taylor pointed out. The county will be responsible for the design of improvements along C.R. 38 between C.R. 17 and Island View Drive just west of S.R. 15. The city will pay for construction. The $11.5 million project is expected to begin in 2015.
Grossman also pointed out an unfunded project to connect Waterford Mills Parkway to the bridge at C.R. 40 west of S.R. 15. No money has been set aside for construction in the highway department’s 10-year plan.
The county kicked off 2014 with $110,857 in its economic development income tax, or EDIT, account. The county is expected to receive roughly $4.2 million in EDIT funds this year. The EDIT account was originally created to fund road improvements but has been used for other purposes, including balancing the county’s general fund budget, in recent years.
At the beginning of January, the county’s major bridge fund included $814,466 and the estimated income for the year will be about $1.8 million. The major bridge fund is used for projects on bridges that are more than 200 feet long. The cumulative bridge fund for bridge projects less than 200 feet long had a balance of $442,754 at the beginning of 2014 and is expected to add $762,000 in income this year.
Starting in 2016, the county’s balance for small bridge projects will be in the red, Taylor said.
“We’re going to have to address that,” he told the council members and commissioners. “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road with respect to bridges. Bridges have to be fixed.”
County commissioner Mike Yoder noted that the county’s expenses are shifting.
“We have health insurance expenses that we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he explained. “We have changes in correctional sentencing laws. We don’t know how that’s going to impact us yet, and we have general cost of living expenses.”
Some of the county’s revenue streams are nearly back to pre-recession levels, but losses because of property tax caps continue to be a problem, Yoder said.
“Our property tax side is really, really hurting for the foreseeable future, and we need to figure out how to shore that up,” he said.
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.