Council grants extra $1.4M to fix Elkhart roads

The Elkhart City Council has appropriated more than $1.4 million to improve city streets, including Augusta Lane where the 35-year-old concrete pavement will “tear your car up,” according to one City Council member. 

ELKHART — More than $1.4 million was appropriated this week to repave more than 15 miles of Elkhart roads and to improve safety at the intersection of Beardsley Avenue and Riverside Drive.

Some $210,000 was devoted to resurfacing Augusta Lane, which got its current pavement in 1984. 

“The construction at the time was just not what it should have been,” said city right-of-way engineer Jeff Schaffer.

He explained that the road consists of 6 inches of concrete pavement over the existing clay soil, a construction style that has caused problems in the entire Bent Oak area, Schaffer said, because water struggles to get away with no drainage. 

The lowest responsive bidder, Rieth-Riley Construction, will turn the concrete to rubble but keep it in place, using it as a drainage layer to keep away water and to act as a buffer for swelling and shrinking in the clay, as the new pavement is put on top of the rubble.

Schaffer said that taking advantage of rubblization makes this a 10-15 year solution, whereas just resurfacing, at a lower short-term cost of about $60-80,000, would have prolonged the life of the road by five to seven years.

City Councilman Brent Curry, D-5, was particularly pleased that something is now being done to Augusta Lane, which is at the most southern part of his district.

“This street has been in bad shape for a long time,” Curry said. “It’ll tear your car up.”

Another councilman appeared to have heard enough complaints from Curry.

“Whatever cost it takes to stop Councilman Curry from complaining about Augusta Lane, go for it,” joked Brian Thomas, R-2.

Schaffer said that the project would take one or two weeks to complete, but that construction won’t begin until mid-July or early August, because current conditions are too wet. Residents at the dead-end road should be able to drive on the rubble during construction.

“We will make it a painless as possible for the property owners and for the contractor. Or, for the property owners, not for the contractor - they can experience all the pain,” said Schaffer.

City Council members also approved $1.19 million in additional funds for the 2019 paving program, which will cover 5% of the total length of the city’s streets, according to a memo to the council from Schaffer and Street Commissioner Mike Szucs. 

The council had approved $750,000 for spending on paving materials in the 2019 budget, but part of that went to covering overages from 2018, according to the memo.

Szucs said that about $233,000 remains of the budgeted $750,000.

“To finish it, that’s why we need the extra money,” he said.

Councilman David Henke, R-3, was concerned with the program going over budget.

“When it becomes a trend, we’ve got to put the budget back in order,” he said.

Yet, he said he felt comfortable with this project, and that he was happy to have been informed early on.

Schaffer said the city doesn’t necessarily repave the streets that are in worst condition, but rather group streets together in a way that promotes economies of scale.

The city council approved the $1.4 million appropriation from the motor vehicle highway fund in a 9-0 vote.

Separately, the council approved a $32,100 appropriation to make safety improvements at the intersection of Beardsley Avenue and Riverside Drive.

Temporary barriers will be replaced by new curbs, sidewalks, ramps and other improvements that will help enforce the no left turn rule from Beardsley Avenue onto Riverside Drive, according to the city’s Engineering Division.

The appropriation from the Local Income Tax Special Distribution Fund was also approved unanimously. 

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter @ReadRasmus

(1) comment

Joe King

Has any of the council members or street dept driven down franklin st? From downtown to Sr 19? Good wonder people don’t like coming to elkhart..that’s a major road to town and it is BAD!

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