GOSHEN — Homeowners on the east side of Goshen and drivers who regularly take U.S. 33 to and from work voiced concerns Thursday evening, March 20, about a major road project proposed by the Indiana Department of Transportation.
INDOT hosted a public meeting Thursday at Goshen High School to collect comments about the project. The department has come up with a plan to reroute part of U.S. 33 to the outskirts of Goshen’s historic district. The plan for the proposed route, known as the northern connector, calls for realigning U.S. 33 between Monroe Street and S.R. 15 so that the two-lane road runs parallel to the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks on the east side of town.
The construction project would include three overpasses built at Cottage Avenue, Lincoln Avenue and the railroad spur that runs north and south along the east side of Ninth Street. INDOT has proposed closing the railroad crossing at Ninth Street.
City officials told the crowd of more than 200 people who the project has been a long time coming, touting it as the “preferred alternative.”
“Nobody likes to hear it, but it’s for the greater good,” Goshen mayor Allan Kauffman said. “When we do these projects, we have to look at the benefit for the whole community, and I agree this is the project that needs to happen, and I’m probably not going to stick a shovel in the ground before my term ends, but I’m glad to see this finally getting to this point.”
Richard Wilson, who lives on Ninth Street, owns one of 31 homes that would have to be torn down because of the project. Five businesses would also need to be relocated. But, Wilson said, losing his home is a sacrifice he is willing to make. He worries about the safety of young children who live in the area and walk to school.
“There’s comes a time that we need to let go of stuff that we have in order to move forward,” he said. “Our children of today will be our the leaders of the future.”
Tara Ammons, who lives near the proposed construction zone, said she is concerned about noise coming from the new road and extra traffic traveling through her neighborhood.
Several people questioned why the new U.S. 33 alignment would be built with two lanes instead of four. Mel Lehman, a Goshen resident, said he supports the road construction project but believes more lanes will be needed to accommodate future growth in traffic.
Nader Tomasbi, a civil engineer who lives in Goshen, agreed.
“I believe it is a big disservice to the citizens of the city of Goshen for this to be two lanes because the minute it’s built, it’s obsolete,” he said.
Brian Smith — of DLZ Construction, the company that was contracted for the project’s design — said a four-lane road would be more expensive and require more right-of-way to be acquired. Plus, Smith said, because there will be no traffic signals between Madison and Pike streets, the flow of traffic will be relatively smooth.
Comments collected at Thursday’s hearing will be reviewed and addressed in INDOT’s final environmental document for the project. INDOT is accepting public input until April 11 via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Written comments can also be mailed to the INDOT’s Office of Public Involvement, Attn: Hearings Manager at 100 N. Senate Ave., room N642, Indianapolis, IN, 46204-2216. The phone number is 317-232-6601.
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.