GOSHEN — Goshen and Elkhart County officials have signed an agreement over building a connector road on the south side of the city.
Goshen Common Council and the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners separately approved an interlocal agreement for the road project during meetings in recent weeks. The new road would connect Waterford Mills Parkway, on the west side of S.R. 15, to C.R. 40 on the east side.
The project also includes improvements to the intersection of S.R. 15 and Waterford Mills Parkway. The parkway overpass was opened at the end of 2016, as a way to get traffic over the railroad tracks and as a connector between S.R. 15 and U.S. 33 to the east.
Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman said the road project would also improve the flow to C.R. 17 to the west.
“A few years ago, we completed our overpass on the south side of the city, which is now the Waterford Mills Parkway. And this would be the next piece that would connect that overpass to the C.R. 40 bridge,” he told city council ahead of their Jan. 7 vote on the agreement. “It would keep moving traffic towards (C.R.) 17 on the south side of town.”
The county is the lead agency on the project, according to the interlocal agreement, which spells out the responsibilities each government will have during the design and construction phases. The county will bid out and oversee parts of the project, such as engineering and right of way acquisition, while the city will be able to review and approve the plans and will be responsible for half of the funding.
Prior to the interlocal agreement being drafted, the board of county commissioners had a study done in fall to help guide thinking on the project. It’s something that’s been informally discussed between the county and city for a few years, Transportation Manager Charlie McKenzie noted at the time.
The new connector road would replace the staggered intersection with S.R. 15, where a few hundred feet now separate C.R. 40 from the parkway. There are traffic lights at both roads, and McKenzie said eliminating the staggered intersection should improve the traffic congestion that builds up between them.
A preliminary study of options shows the connector could take the form of a reverse S-curve or diagonal road on the west side of S.R. 15, he indicated.
Before approving the agreement on their end, Goshen Common Council amended it to push back the date by which the project should be ready to bid out. They reset the original date of March 31, 2021 to March 2023.
Stutsman told council that after the city received the agreement from the county and reviewed it, it was clear neither side would be able to meet the dates. He said the dates turned out to be a typo.
“There is an option, at least, that we may have our funding in place earlier,” added city attorney Larry Barkes. “So if that is the case, we could start in 2022. But what we’re committing to is 2023. And that the project’s expected completion date would be by Dec. 31, 2023.”
Stutsman said the road is a Goshen Redevelopment Commission project and that the plan for the city’s share of funding is to use tax increment finance district money.
He said now that Kercher Road is back open, the city is studying the traffic on it as it prepares for the connector project.
He also noted that every option now being considered would use the existing bridge on C.R. 40, rather than building a new one. He said it was considered years ago, but was determined to be too costly.
“At this time, we don’t know what the project looks like. We’re just getting this interlocal agreement together so that we can start splitting the cost of design and really looking at it,” Stutsman told the council. “Whether this will be a brand new S-curve road, if we find a way to use some existing infrastructure and just upgrade that. We’re looking at all the different options now for the most affordable and the least effect on the community in that area.”