Underground sewer tank project won't be the only work impacting downtown Elkhart traffic flow this summer
Thursday March 27, 2014
Some more on plans to install a giant underground sewage holding tank in downtown Elkhart, beneath a lot on the southwest corner of Jackson Boulevard and Waterfall Drive:
Why not Central Park?: Central Park, the big grassy area southeast of the site along Waterfall Drive, isn't a viable option because the soil there is contaminated and the city entered into some sort of agreement not to dig there. Plus, it's a venue for outdoor activities, which would be disrupted by the project, and work there would be even more disruptive to traffic and downtown business, according to an information sheet prepared by the city of Elkhart.
Downtown access: Road closures connected to the project, to start in July and last 18 months to two years, will be compounded by other anticipated closures linked to the planned Prairie Street overpass project. That could complicate access to the city center even more, a concern for downtown merchants.
Jackson Boulevard on the north end of the holding tank location will be closed for around six weeks on either side of the Elkhart River just east of Main Street, probably around August and September. Jackson Boulevard is a key access point from the east to downtown Elkhart. Waterfall Drive between Jackson Boulevard and Lexington Avenue will be closed for the duration of the work.
The Main Street-Prairie Street crossing south of the downtown area, meanwhile, is set to close around August so the intersection can be rebuilt, part of plans to build an overpass north on Prairie Street over the Norfolk Southern Railroad line. The Main Street-Middlebury Street crossing will close for construction in 2015, according to the information sheet (scroll down to see it).
Regardless of the real impact of the construction and road closures, some worry the mere perception of chaos created by the work will keep customers away from the downtown area.
The new tank is going in under the Gause parking lot west of Waterfall Drive between Jackson Boulevard and Lexington Avenue. The areas in red reflect the construction areas. Areas in orange reflect parking areas that won't be impacted by the work. The one area in green at Jackson Boulevard and Second Street is a parking lot to be developed to make up for spaces lost in the Gause lot while the tank is installed. From the city of Elkhart.
Parking: The lot where the underground tank is to be installed, the Gause lot, has 83 parking spaces, which will be lost during construction, but regained when work finishes. A new lot at Second Street and Jackson will create 28 new spaces, and the information sheet notes that going from parallel parking to angled parking on Main Street created 56 new spots, though some are well south of the work zone.
Smell: With a million gallon underground tank and all the sewage it'll hold, odor's going to be bad, right? Not so, because "odor control units" are to be installed with the tank as well.
"Raw sewage currently discharges into the Elkhart River during storm events; this project will reduce those discharges," according to the information sheet. "The smell, if you notice one now during storm events, would improve."
The tank is designed to collect overflow sewage during heavy rains, which otherwise might be released, untreated, directly into the Elkhart River. When treatment plant capacity allows, the collected sewage would be treated.
Here's the information sheet from the city of Elkhart:
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