Ground in Elkhart has been broken, now it's time to dig the hole for a huge million-gallon underground tank

The tank is being installed in downtown Elkhart and will cause traffic and parking disruptions on Waterfall Drive, Lexington Avenue and Jackson Boulevard.

Posted on July 25, 2014 at 4:22 p.m.

ELKHART — Ceremonial ground has been broken, now it’s time to dig the big hole.

Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore and other city leaders gathered Friday, July 25, to break ground ahead of the planned installation of a huge sewage holding tank under a city parking lot downtown. Preliminary work has already started, and the effort will gradually ratchet up starting next week, likely causing some traffic disruption and forcing some downtown visitors to adjust their travel habits.

Still, looking at the big picture, Moore underscored the impact the work, when complete, would have on water quality in the waterways here. The million-gallon tank, to be installed under the Gause parking lot on the southwest corner of Jackson Boulevard and Waterfall Drive, will capture excess runoff during heavy storms to keep untreated sewage and storm water from being dumped into the Elkhart River.

  • Scroll down to see a map of the work zone

The federal government is mandating the work, Moore noted, but “it’s the right thing to do. It’s something we need to do.”

Friday’s ceremony, actually held in nearby Kardzhali Park, north of the NIBCO Water and Ice Park, drew around 40 people, including many city leaders and employees. Moore and several others involved in the project dug into the ground with gold-colored shovels, then replaced the turf.

The project has a few particulars:

The work to be done: Aside from the huge tank, the project — to be largely complete by September 2015 — calls for installation of new water mains in the area, improvements to adjacent streets and upgrades to the Gause lot, after the hole for the tank is covered. A similar tank was installed in 2010 in High Dive Park, also to collect excess storm water runoff so it can be treated instead of dumped directly into waterways.

Road closures: Waterfall Drive will be closed from Jackson Boulevard south to Lexington Avenue for the duration of the project so the area can be used as a staging area for the work. Lexington Avenue will be narrowed to one eastbound lane of traffic from Main Street to Waterfall Drive, with angled parking added about a month after the work begins.

The first phase plans entail installation of new water mains under Lexington Avenue. After that, perhaps starting sometime in September, Jackson Boulevard around Waterfall Drive will be temporarily closed to accommodate work there.

Lost and found parking spots: The closure of the Gause lot will cause the temporary loss of around 80 parking spaces, but Moore said the city has created or secured 154 parking places scattered around the downtown area to counter the loss. There’s a new lot in the 200 block of Jackson Boulevard, a private lot at Third Street and Lexington Avenue that will temporarily be open to the public and more spaces elsewhere.

“It will take a week of adjustment for some and once they find their parking place ... you’ll see the inconvenience drop off,” Moore said.

Open for business: The officials emphasized that the downtown area will remain open and accessible, despite the presence of orange and white traffic barriers in spots.

“If you liked the Daily Grind before, you’ll still like it. And the Old Style Deli,” City Engineer Mike Machlan said, alluding to a coffee shop and eatery near the construction zone.

The upgrades are part of a broader $155 million overhaul of the city’s sewer network, launched several years ago, that stems from tighter federal water quality rules. The construction costs for the Gause lot phase will total $7.09 million, not including engineering, inspection and other costs.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.

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