ELKHART — If you travel the busy C.R. 6-Ash Road crossing at the Elkhart County-St. Joseph County line, prepare to find a new route.
The crossing is to be closed by as early as Wednesday, July 24, to accommodate construction of a new roundabout there. It will remain off-limits to through traffic for about two months.
Orange traffic signs are already up on C.R. 6, known as Cleveland Road in St. Joseph County, warning the road will be closed there on or around Wednesday. Sandy Price, the principal of Trinity Lutheran School at the southeast corner of the intersection, says plans also call for closure of Ash Road, known as County Line Road in Elkhart County.
Once work gets started, the crossing will be closed for 60 days, tentatively reopening on Sept. 20, according to Price. She said project developers have indicated that the work would take two to three times longer if traffic flow were maintained at the crossing through the project.
Elkhart County Highway Department and St. Joseph County Engineering Department officials weren’t immediately available Monday to provide additional information. Likewise, a rep from Rieth-Riley, the Goshen-based contractor handling the project, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Officials in Elkhart County have long discussed the possibility of some sort of upgrade at the C.R. 6-Ash Road crossing. C.R. 6 there is a major route between the two counties and congestion gets heavy there during the morning and afternoon rush hours.
Elkhart County Council President John Letherman said the wait to get through the crossing can be as much as five or 10 minutes at times. Price said stopped cars in the southbound lane of Ash Road sometimes back up from C.R. 6 all the way to C.R. 10.
Price and Letherman spoke favorably of the roundabout plans, saying the addition would smooth traffic flow and keep congestion in check. Fortunately for Trinity Lutheran, the school there won’t be in session for at least the start of the project, minimizing the potential impact for parents bringing their children to the facility.
There are roundabouts scattered around the state “and they work really well,” said Letherman. In fact, there’s already a roundabout at Cleveland and Bittersweet roads, west of the one to be built.
Still, closing the crossing will undoubtedly require many to come up with alternate routes in the meantime. “We just hope it’s finished on time,” said Price.
According to Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder, St. Joseph County is the main force behind the project. He said Elkhart County officials will only be in charge of upgrading the C.R. 6 connection into the roundabout on the Elkhart County side.
Back in 2011, Elkhart County officials said the estimated price tag for the roundabout was $3.08 million, including design, land acquisition and construction costs.