Prairie, Main Street closings will affect drivers through summer

Closed roads include Main Street between Indiana Avenue and Willard Street, along with Prairie Street between Park Avenue and Stocker Court. The areas are slated to be closed until Dec. 1.

Posted on June 3, 2014 at 6:01 p.m.

ELKHART — Drivers accustomed to taking South Main Street to get to and from downtown Elkhart will need to adjust their routes through the end of the year.

As of Tuesday, June 3, Main Street between Indiana Avenue and Willard Street, along with Prairie Street between Park Avenue and Stocker Court, are closed through approximately Dec. 1. A detour runs from Indiana Avenue to Benham Avenue (see map below).

Leslie Biek, right-of-way engineer for the city of Elkhart, acknowledged that the closings will be inconvenient for motorists, at least at first.

"I think people will eventually get used to it," she said.

The closings are part of the first phase of a multimillion dollar project that includes the construction of an overpass over the Norfolk Southern Railroad rail line crossing Prairie Street between Main and Middlebury streets. To make space, construction workers are demolishing 14 buildings along Prairie Street from Main Street north to around the railroad crossing.

The project also will widen Prairie Street to a four-lane roadway from Main Street to Division Street, according to the city of Elkhart’s website. The east side of the bridge will feature a pedestrian bridge, the website states.

Why close Main Street?

The Main Street section is closed so crews can install a new underground storm water sewer network. It will connect into a newer network at Indiana Avenue, the southern end of the Main Street construction area. Water and other utility lines also will be replaced under the Main Street corridor.

These upgrades were already planned, so officials decided to do the work in conjunction with the overpass project.

The decision to close Main Street in that area was made so construction could be done more quickly, Biek said. Maintaining a lane of traffic in each direction, say, would have slowed completion.

For the most part, Main Street won’t change throughout construction, but the Main Street and Prairie Street crossing will see improvements, with improved turn lanes, among other things.

The next step

After this phase of work wraps up in December, construction of the actual overpass will follow. That’s scheduled for completion around mid-November in 2015, when the bulk of the roadwork will also be done. Peripheral work is slated to wrap up by July 10, 2016.

The contractor, Rieth-Riley Construction Co. is required to maintain access to the Main Street businesses in the construction corridor, according to Biek. They can be accessed from side streets on either side of Main Street.

Construction costs for the overpass and sewer system upgrades total $10.15 million, according to the winning bid from Rieth-Riley. Land acquisition, design and inspection costs will boost that to around $17 million or $18 million.

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