$4.8M overhaul of Benham Avenue approved

Truth file photo A large part of Benham Avenue, and parts of some side streets, will undergo $4.8 million worth of restoration, including repaving, new sidewalks and new sewers. 

ELKHART — Benham Avenue will get its $4.8 million overhaul, the Elkhart City Council decided unanimously on Monday.

The largest part of the funds, $3.2 million, will cover a complete reconstruction of the pavement and sidewalks from Indiana Avenue to Lusher Avenue. In the same area will be wider sidewalks, a center turn lane and new lighting. Under ground, the water main will be replaced and a new storm sewer will be installed.

About $900,000 will be spent to reconstruct LaSalle Street and McKinley and Park avenues, side streets that form a triangle just south of the water tower.

In the same area, water, storm sewer and sanitary sewer work will be funded by the utility fund.

Another $500,000 will be spent in a project with Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Concord Community Schools to construct new sidewalks and new lighting from Hively Avenue to Mishawaka Road and on Mishawaka Road from Benham Avenue to Sixth Street and new pedestrian signals at the intersection of Benham Avenue and Mishawaka Road.

Finally, $200,000 is going to resurfacing the street from the railroad underpass to Indiana Avenue, while replacing curb ramps and crosswalks in the same area.

Approval of the funds was delayed three weeks when several City Council members complained at their July 15 meeting that the money was going through the Capital Outlay Fund, although it would be taken from the General Fund.

Members pointed out that the Capital Outlay Fund should be used only for projects that will create a direct return on investment for the city. The council removed an ordinance that would spend the money from capital outlay and amended another ordinance to spend the money directly from the General Fund.

Both AMBS and Concord Community Schools had representatives at the Aug. 5 City Council meeting, urging the council to appropriate the funds.

AMBS CFO and vice-president for administration Ron Ringenberg said the seminary would do its part to make the revamp possible.

“AMBS has been for this for the last 12 years,” he said. “We’re willing to do whatever we can.”

He suggested that might include the creation of new right-of-way or the seminary cleaning up the street in winter when they’re doing their own maintenance.

Nathan Koets, director of facilities at Concord Community Schools, said sidewalks will make a big difference for student and parents at West Side Elementary School.

“We are in full support of this project,” he said. 

According to the Mayor’s Office, construction will begin this year and conclude sometime in 2020.

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus

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