ELKHART — If you want to visit businesses and homes around S.R. 19 and Indiana Avenue, focus of heavy road construction, you might want to use a helicopter, jokes Bruno Cataldo, owner of a pizzeria near the intersection.
“Yeah, you got an exit in and out — if you got a helicopter,” he said Friday, May 24.
Indiana Avenue on the west side of S.R. 19 was closed to traffic earlier this week to allow work on the roadway there, and the change — to last until mid-July — has prompted hand-wringing, confusion and more among some who live and work there.
“I get that they have to do this construction. This intersection is horrible,” said Amanda Govaert, who lives on Jones Street south of Indiana Avenue, just west of the busy S.R. 19-Indiana Avenue crossing.
Still, there have been a few unpleasant surprises since the road closure this week, hampering access to the zone around Govaert’s home and Cataldo’s business, Bruno’s Pizza. S.R. 19 between the St. Joseph River and Franklin Street is the focus of an ongoing upgrade, and the Indiana Avenue closure, part of the project, is meant to allow widening of Indiana Avenue’s western approach to S.R. 19.
Govaert, also speaking Friday, said work crews unexpectedly tore up the Jones Street-Indiana Avenue crossing a block west of S.R. 19 on Thursday morning, temporarily stranding her in her home. Likewise, Baugo Community Schools officials had to tweak a school bus route at the last minute because of the Indiana Avenue closure.
To the relief of Govaert and her boyfriend, Ryan Konrath, Jones Street at Indiana Avenue, closed when the crossing was torn up, has since reopened to traffic. Nathan Dean, director of operations for Baugo schools, notes that school ends next week, minimizing the impact to the affected bus route.
Whatever the case, there will undoubtedly be continuing fallout.
Traffic has increased on Govaert’s largely residential street as eastbound Indiana Avenue motorists approach S.R. 19 and seek a detour around the closed section, she said.
And Cataldo suspects there will be temporary Indiana Avenue and Jones Street closures to contend with in the near term as construction proceeds, hampering business. Bruno’s Pizza is located across the street from Govaert’s home, abutting Jones Street to the west and Indiana Avenue to the north.
As is, S.R. 19 traffic can access Bruno’s via Pennsylvania Avenue, which parallels Indiana Avenue to the north, and Jones Street.
REQUIRED TO MAINTAIN ACCESS
Indiana Department of Transportation spokeswoman Mary Foster said in an email that Jones Street will face restrictions at times as work proceeds. INDOT is overseeing the $14.84 million S.R. 19 project, which started last year.
However, Rieth-Riley Construction, the contractor, “is required to maintain some sort of access for homeowners and business owners,” Foster said.
Furthermore, she noted that the company worked out a way to keep Pennsylvania Avenue open, notwithstanding initial plans to temporarily close the roadway at S.R. 19 to accommodate the work.
The scope of the S.R. 19 project extends from Beardsley Avenue south to Lusher Avenue. Most notably, a center turn lane is to be added to much of the roadway in the stretch to facilitate traffic flow and left-hand turns.
Work on the section from the St. Joseph River north to Beardsley was completed last year. The current focus is S.R. 19 from the St. Joseph River south to Franklin Street. Next year the focus turns to the S.R. 19 section from Franklin Street south to Lusher Avenue.
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