ELKHART — The city of Elkhart is looking at constructing sidewalks along the entire northern portion of Cassopolis Street.
Plans to construct a long stretch of sidewalk on the west side of the road is part of a two-pronged effort that officials say began long before last month’s accident in which a pedestrian was struck and killed by a motorist.
Grant money is being sought for a large chunk of the project, and the cost will likely exceed $1 million.
Ultimately, the city is looking to have a continuous stretch of sidewalk from C.R. 4 to Bristol Street. While some short segments already exist, the combined length of new concrete being considered between the two efforts is just short of 2 miles, according city right-of-way engineer Leslie Biek
A March 22 accident in which police believe a 72-year-old walked into the path of a moving car, renewed concerns about the lack of sidewalks along the state-controlled road.
But city engineer Mike Machlan said the city’s interest in additional sidewalks dates back to the 1990s when city officials requested unsuccessfully that the state include sidewalks when the road was expanded.
The road includes five lanes in some segments and is among the busiest in the city.
City officials recently applied for a federal grant that goes through the state and Michiana Area Council of Governments.
Biek said it may take multiple grant applications to receive enough money to go forward with the project.
The city laid the groundwork for the application last year when it was given permission by an outside agency to apply for the grant, Biek said.
The grant money would help pay for a segment running from Windsor Avenue to Bristol Street, Biek said.
The cost would be roughly $970,000, but that doesn’t include land acquisition, she said.
Municipalities typically have to cover 20 percent of the costs plus land acquisition and design expenses.
The grant stresses the importance of multi-module uses, which means the sidewalks would be 10 feet wide to accommodate bikes.
While construction of a sidewalk sounds simple, the process of applying for the grant, doing the design, acquiring land and constructing it means the entire project would not be complete for two to three years, Biek said.
The other segment of the sidewalk plan could happen sooner and is part of a third phase of improvements at NorthPointe, a commercial development that includes numerous hotels near the Indiana Toll Road.
The proposal entails new sidewalks and street lights along NorthPointe Boulevard and to the north plus some additional sidewalks along the west side of Cassopolis north toward C.R. 4.
Those improvements are controlled by the city’s redevelopment commission.
Crystal Welsh, director of community development for the city, presented the plan to the redevelopment commission Tuesday.
The price tag for the entire NorthPointe project could total $500,000.
Part of the project involves “filling in the gaps” in parts of the development where the private developers did not extend sidewalks.
If the commission chooses to approve the plan, Welsh said they could do the entire project together or divide it over the course of two years.
While the NorthPointe project is far from where the recent death occurred, Welsh added, “We might want to consider putting in the sidewalks first to try to address the pedestrian safety issue we have along Cassopolis Street.”
All of the money for the work would come from a tax increment fund generated by development in that area – including hotels, said Mike Huber, destination development manager at the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It is a public safety concern for us,” Huber said. “… On Cassopolis Street and in that area,” Huber said.
The board tabled the plan.
“The amount of money is huge,” commission president Steve Eldridge said, noting that a public hearing might be appropriate.