ELKHART — Fewer train whistles, gas savings and more are in the offing with planned construction of the Prairie Street overpass.
Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore and others gathered Thursday, June 19, to break ground for the long-awaited project, and here are some of the benefits, as reported by the mayor:
- It’ll save about 60,000 gallons of gas each year that’s lost as cars idle while awaiting passing trains. That’s about $250,000 worth of fuel, not to mention reduced auto emissions going into the air.
- It’ll eliminate eight hours per day in wait time at the busy crossing as trains pass. That amounts to about 120 days per year.
- It’ll eliminate about 400 train whistles per year in the neighborhood, providing a bit more peace.
- It’ll create a north-south arterial enabling traffic to more efficiently travel from the U.S. 20 Bypass all the way to the Indiana Toll Road.
"It’s more than just being able to get across,” Moore said.
The project, with an $18.8 million price tag, calls for construction of an overpass along Prairie Street over the Norfolk Southern Railroad crossing between Main and Middlebury streets. Around 120 trains per year pass through Elkhart.
- Scroll down to see a map of the construction zone.
Preliminary work actually started earlier this month with demolition of 14 structures along Prairie Street and closure just to the south of Main Street from Indiana Avenue north to Willard Street. For now, the focus of work will be on the shuttered Main Street section, a peripheral element of the overpass project. The roadway is being torn up for installation of new underground sewer and utility lines and it’ll remain closed until around Dec. 1.
Construction of the actual overpass — and widening of Prairie Street north of Main Street to Division Street — comes next year. The bulk of the work should be done by November 2015, though work on miscellaneous project details, like landscaping, will continue into 2016.
Some $15 million in funds for the project comes from the federal government and the city will kick in $3.8 million, Moore said. The $18.8 million total includes construction and engineering costs plus the cost of acquiring the right-of-way needed to make space for the upgrade.
Around 50 people in all attended Thursday’s ceremony, held just north of the Prairie Street crossing and interrupted by two passing trains. Reps from the offices of U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski were on hand, among others.