The Elkhart County Highway Department hosted a public information meeting on Tuesday about upcoming construction on County Road 38 and Kercher Bridge.
The project, which will reconstruct C.R. 38 from C.R. 17 to Island View Drive in Goshen, is expected to cost $12 million. It will widen C.R. 38 to allow a center turn lane and replace Kercher Bridge, widening the bridge to twice its original size with three lanes of traffic and a shoulder.
Residents seemed most concerned about water drainage and losing part of their property, as well as the potential for increased traffic and accidents on C.R. 38.
County engineer Jay Grossman said the county only expects a slight bump in traffic due to road improvements. He estimated a 2 to 4 percent increase in traffic.
“The traffic is already there,” he said. “We’re trying to keep it moving.”
He said the improved road is designed to be safe for driving speeds of up to 55 mph, but expects the posted speed limit to be 50 mph.
A member of the audience at the meeting suggested the county improve safety by enforcing speed limits along C.R. 38. The crowd loudly affirmed this suggestion.
Goshen resident Tim Robie, who lives near the intersection of C.R. 19 and C.R. 38, said after attending the meeting, he still wasn’t sure where water would drain along 38.
“I’ve got a lot of questions,” he said. “It looks like improvements.”
The ditch on his side of 38 was vacated, he said, and water can be waist-deep in the field near his house.
Nicholas Steele, who lives west of Robie, said he’s glad the hills near C.R. 38 are being flattened. Grossman said the dip in the road at the intersection of C.R. 19 and 38 would be raised, and hills on the east and west ends of 38 would be flattened.
Steele said he was still concerned about traffic.
“I don’t like it creeping closer to my property line,” he said. “Just going to add to the chaos.”
An audience member who chose not to give her name said she lives near the intersection of C.R. 19 and 38, like Robie, and believes the roadwork will lead to more traffic and accidents in that area.
“It’s horrible, I don’t like it,” she said. “The traffic is bad the way it is and they’d take part of my yard.”
She joked that she wanted Mr. Peabody from “The Bullwinkle Show” to take Goshen back twenty years in his time machine.
“Put things back the way they were 20 years ago,” she said.
Grossman said the county is not planning to acquire any houses along the road, but it will be appraising the land. The county will pay market value for the land and residents will have 30 days to accept, reject or negotiate offers.
Land appraisal is scheduled to take place from July to September this year, with land acquisition following from September to March of 2015. Construction is not scheduled to start until August 2015, with plans to complete it by September 2016.
"These are very preliminary plans,” Grossman said. “It’s more or less workable right now, but it can still be refined.”
Plans will be up on the Elkhart County Highway Department website in the next two weeks, Grossman said.