State gives $2M to local road improvements

Truth file photo Grants from the Indiana Department of Transportation sends $2 million for road improvements to Elkhart County.

ELKHART — Elkhart County and cities and towns within it are getting a combined $2.16 million in state grants for road improvements.

Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness announced Thursday that 229 Indiana cities, towns and counties are receiving a combined $99.2 million in state matching funds for local road projects through the Next Level Roads: Community Crossings Initiative.

Locally, Elkhart County is receiving $1 million, which is the highest amount a community can receive through this grant each year. The state is giving an additional $602,500 to the City of Elkhart, $336,061 to Middlebury, $132,195 to Bristol and $90,245 to Millersburg.

“High-quality local roads and bridges are an important part of our formula for attracting jobs, growing our economy, and building strong communities,” Holcomb said. “Our fully-funded Next Level Roads plan and record-breaking level of construction has gained Indiana national recognition for our approach to infrastructure, and Community Crossings takes that commitment to the local level all across the state.”

Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder said the $1 million the county receives will be spent, along with $1 million from the county’s own pockets, on replacing the asphalt on C.R. 17 between C.R. 18 and C.R. and between C.R. 30 and C.R. 32; on C.R. 20 from the western county line to Best Avenue; and on C.R. 33 from U.S. 33 to U.S. 6.

Those four projects are all to be completed in 2020.

Yoder said the county spends between $7 million and $9 million on its summer paving programs. The county did not receive the grant the last time it could apply, and the extra million dollars makes a difference, Yoder said.

“It matters a lot because a million dollars worth of paving, that’s pretty substantial,” he said. “What this means is that we’re able to do some other roads that might have a little lower priority standing, so we can work deeper into our list of roads that have needs.”

In the City of Elkhart, the county grant will be spent in a $1.2 million project to resurface and improve drainage on John Weaver Parkway from C.R. 6 to C.R. 10.

That stretch was in such bad condition that the Elkhart Street Department had to do some some pavement work this week in order to get through the winter, according to right-of-way engineer Jeff Schaffer.

He said the city is also planning to spend tax increment financing (TIF) funds to add lighting to John Weaver Parkway

Schaffer said the city’s half of the $1.2 million still has to be approved by the City Council for the project to become reality.

This is the third time that the City of Elkhart has received the Community Crossings grant, according to Schaffer, who said the funds are a significant addition to the city’s repaving budget, which is usually between $1.5 million and $2 million per year.

“So getting this $600,000 grant is a huge boost and really lets us do a project like John Weaver Parkway, which normally would be up to 50 percent of our paving budget just on one street,” Schaffer said.

The City Council does occasionally make special appropriations, as was recently the case for Benham Avenue and Augusta Lane.

To qualify for funding, local governments representing over 50,000 people must match 100 percent of the grant, while smaller communities have to match 50 percent.

“Efficiently and safely moving people and commerce is vital to the quality of life and vitality of our communities,” McGuinness said. “INDOT is excited to partner with communities through this matching grant program to make infrastructure investments that contribute to the success of all Hoosier cities, towns and counties.”

State lawmakers identified long-term funding for Community Crossings as part of House Enrolled Act 1002, passed by the legislature and signed into law by Holcomb in April 2017. Much of the funding comes from a 10-cent increase in fuel taxes.

Next Level Roads is Holcomb’s initiative to elevate Indiana’s economic competitiveness and quality of life for all Hoosiers through investment in transportation infrastructure. The plan dedicates more than $60 billion over the next 20 years to improving the conditions of existing roads and bridges, according to INDOT.

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus

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