Saturday, October 25, 2014

City looks at condemnation for three parcels in overpass project

The city of Elkhart is considering condemnation for a few properties in the Prairie Street overpass project.
Posted on March 20, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on March 20, 2013 at 5:45 p.m.

ELKHART — Initial steps toward condemnation are in the works for a few properties needed by the city for the upcoming Prairie Street overpass in Elkhart.

Efforts to secure land for the project continue to progress and have gone well, officials said, but the city has taken steps toward condemnation in case it becomes necessary, said Mike Machlan, city engineer.

The city has agreements for about 75 percent of the parcels necessary for the work, and the project appears to be gaining momentum following approval by city council two weeks ago for the local share of money required for the program.

The city has identified about 45 parcels, which include a mix of residential and commercial properties plus other small pieces of land needed temporarily for the project.

“There are some disagreements on the value of a couple parcels of land,” Machlan said.

More than anything, the city has struggled with the pace of discussions while under a fairly tight deadline, he said.

As of Tuesday, only about eight parcels have yet to be secured, Machlan said.

Initial steps toward possible condemnation on three properties have begun, but officials remain optimistic that agreements can be reached.

“I don’t want to get into details or threaten anybody,” Machlan said. “It’s a process the federal government sets up that we adhere to pretty rigidly.”

Starting condemnation doesn’t mean we’re not still willing to work with the property owner,” said Leslie Biek, an engineer with the city who is overseeing the project.

“It’s just getting the timer started,” Biek said.

City attorney Vlado Vranjes said he believes the acquisition process has gone as well if not better than when the city undertook the Indiana Avenue underpass project.

The board of works on Tuesday approved a resolution supporting future plans for the project.

Construction will span nearly two years, but when it’s done, motorists traveling north and south will have a much quicker path to and from the Indiana Toll Road.

The overpass is also expected to significantly reduce congestion and provide another option for motorists seeking alternative routes around the heavy train traffic near South Main Street.

City officials expect to seek bids on the $20 million project in December, and construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2014.

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