GOSHEN — Plans for the new U.S. 33 route are coming into focus and a final decision on plans is expected this summer.
Goshen city engineer Mary Cripe said the Indiana Department of Transportation is reviewing two options, but is leaning towards one in particular after many discussions with the city.
The original project entailed working on the existing alignment of U.S. 33 and add an underpass on Madison Street below the railroad tracks near Eighth Street. The north and south ends of Eighth Street would then be rounded off into cul-de-sacs to accommodate for the underpass.
The city found several issues with that proposal, however, noting that U.S. 33 would still be routed through the heart of the downtown district and the lack of an intersection at Eighth Street would significantly impact north-south traffic flow.
Other concerns included the safety of children walking to school with no safe way to cross U.S. 33, major construction impacts to traffic flow on U.S. 33 itself and major railroad work required for the underpass.
Cripe was pleased that INDOT took seriously the city’s concerns about the original plan. “INDOT listened and worked with the community,” she explained, adding that the department had been quite easy to work with.
The plan INDOT is now favoring would deviate from the current alignment of the road beginning at the intersection of U.S. 33 and Monroe Street. The new route would run along the west side of the tracks and bypass downtown. This plan would require an overpass be built over Lincoln and Cottage avenues.
While the city favors this proposal, dubbed the “Northern Connector” route, Cripe acknowledged that it is not without its issues as well.
She noted that INDOT said there is $35 million available for the project, and though the cost of the Northern Connector route might not cost that much, the project would have to be scaled back slightly to allow for enough wiggle room in case of unforeseen costs.
That means construction would begin at the intersection of Monroe Street, rather than at Kercher Road as was originally planned.
Cripe said INDOT does realize the need for improvements at U.S. 33’s intersections with Kercher Road and College Avenue. Though those improvements would be cut out of this particular project, that section of the road would go back into INDOT’s pool of future projects.
The relocation of U.S. 33 would also mean that several residents and businesses would be displaced. The new route would also cut through Goshen Community Schools’ bus parking lot and part of the high school’s baseball diamond.
Businesses such as Scott Signs, Hoover Feeds and Indiana Paint and Collision would be effected, along with numerous residential properties that would displace some residents.
“No matter what way we go, you’re impacting people,” Cripe said.
She held a meeting Jan. 31 with the East Lincoln Crossroads Neighborhood Association, which would be the most effected by the Northern Connector, to explain INDOT’s plan and the potential for relocation.
Cripe estimated about 40 or 50 people attended the meeting and some were learning of the plans for the first time.
She noted that some in attendance were emotional, but understood because it was their first time hearing about the plans. Several others, she said, understood that the U.S. 33 route is an issue that the city and state needed to work out.
“We wanted to show them the maps and show them what we know so far,” Cripe explained. “If you’re thinking about renovating your bathroom or your kitchen or something, you don’t want to go through all that work and then be told the next year that you’re going to have to sell your house and relocate somewhere else.”
The construction of the Northern Connector would likely mean the city taking control of Madison and Main streets, allowing for further projects to ease up several traffic and parking issues in the future.
Cripe added that the section of U.S. 33 referred to as Redskin Road would probably become property of the schools to do with as they wish.
Once the final decisions are made concerning routing this summer, Cripe said the acquisition of properties would begin around this time next year.
Construction on U.S. 33 is slated to begin in 2016 regardless of which route INDOT selects.