109th gets nod for I-65 interchange

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109th gets nod for I-65 interchange

Postby Big Dog » Fri Jun 24, 2005 5:49 pm

CROWN POINT | The best location for a new Interstate 65 interchange north of U.S. 231 and south of U.S. 30 is 109th Avenue, according to a newly completed study.

Mayor Dan Klein announced the results at a special meeting of the city's Redevelopment Commission Tuesday, emphasizing the economic benefits the interchange would bring to Crown Point and Winfield. The city will use the study to urge the Indiana Department of Transportation to put the interchange at the top of its planned construction list.

Now, all that stands in the way of the project and $10 million in federal funding is Congress' passage of the federal transportation bill. The next vote is set for June 30.

In March, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., secured within the bill $24.6 million for local transportation projects, including about $10 million for construction of the interchange. Visclosky described the 109th Avenue interchange as critical to the region since it's the only road connecting Lake County at Ind. 53, or Broadway, to Porter County at Ind. 2.

Mark Lopez, a district director for Visclosky, praised the city for taking the initiative to spearhead the study.

Winfield Town Council President Bill Teach said the findings present some challenges and opportunities. Winfield officials have expressed concerns in the past about being able to afford the cost of improving its portion of 109th Avenue to accommodate future heavy traffic.

Teach said the town is far along in the process of getting approval for general obligation bonds for $800,000 in construction, set to go from August to October. Three miles of 109th Avenue between Colorado and Randolph streets will get a new top surface and two sections of road the lengths of football fields will have their bases replaced. The work should extend the life of the road by eight to 10 years, Teach said. By that point, the town should have the tax base and bonding ability to afford to fully correct the road with the help of federal money.

In 2002, Crown Point's Redevelopment Commission hired American Consulting, Inc., to study a 48-square-mile area between I-65 and U.S. 231 to see if a new interchange could be justified. Commission member Bob Corbin said the group decided to fund the study because of the larger regional benefits.

"It's not just a Crown Point project," Corbin said, adding that the interchange would help traffic in south Lake County.

The results confirm early analysis American Consulting project development director Michael Koyak shared with city officials, which showed that an interchange at 109th Avenue would cost less, have a smaller environmental impact and reach an area that requires more short-term service than 101st Avenue.

A diamond-shaped interchange at 109th Avenue would cost $16.9 million for land acquisition and construction, while at 101st Avenue it would cost $21.1 million, he said. The 109th Avenue option would require obtaining 37 acres of new right of way, while 101st Avenue would require 54.2 acres.

This story ran on nwitimes on Wednesday, June 22, 2005
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Visclosky confident I-65 Interchange will move forward

Postby Big Dog » Sun Jun 26, 2005 12:34 pm

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky said he thinks a new Interstate 65 interchange in Crown Point will be built despite the project's omission from a tentative 10-year state roads construction list.

And a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation assured proponents of 15 other region road projects that time remains to convince the state that those projects belong on the final list of construction to be performed during the next 10 years.

INDOT also confirmed that four of 20 region projects that local transportation officials believed had been omitted from the state's long-term planning list -- including the $7.4 million addition of a center lane on Broadway between U.S. 30 and 61st Avenue in Merrillville -- are indeed going to be built starting in 2006.

Members of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission and other local transportation officials began scrambling earlier this week to find out why those 20 projects had been left off a list that state and local officials are supposed to be using to assign priorities and help draft the state's new 10-year construction plan.

INDOT scrapped its previous long-range plan after the agency's new administration, which took the helm in January, learned there would be a $2.1 billion budget shortfall for new construction.

The agency then produced a preliminary list of projects to be assigned priorities by state and local elected officials. The priorities, INDOT reported, would help the agency develop a new 10-year plan that would come in under budget.

But NIRPC officials drafted a letter to INDOT last week questioning why 20 region projects, some of which are far along in the planning, design and funding stages, were left off the list for consideration.

One of those projects -- a planned interchange on Interstate 65 at 109th Avenue in Crown Point -- already has been studied and awaits $10 million in federal funding earmarked by Visclosky, D-Ind., in the federal highways bill now under conference in Congress.

While the project should be on the state's preliminary list, Visclosky said he is not concerned that its absence will keep construction of the interchange from moving forward.

For one, state road projects with federal matching dollars nearly always get built, he said.

"I believe in the end, the state will be supportive of the interchange," Visclosky said. "If you don't have the federal match, you don't have the project. That is not the case here."

INDOT spokesman Gary Abell confirmed Friday that the interchange and 15 other projects were left off the state's preliminary list because his agency calculated that given funding issues and construction timelines, the projects likely would not break ground within the next 10 years.

In the case of the Interstate 65 interchange, Abell said the project could be moved back onto the 10-year list if the federal highways bill eventually passes -- as expected -- with the $10 million earmarked provision.

Visclosky called INDOT's process to reprioritize the state's major highway projects a healthy one. He said he would join NIRPC in soliciting the state to place the interchange back on the preliminary list for consideration.

"You always want to be on the list, but the list at this point in time is not final," he said.

Abell made assurances Friday that the state wants to hear from local officials and planning organizations such as NIRPC about projects that are both on and off the list.

"If local leaders know of projects that they feel are more important than ones we have on the list, they need to communicate that to us," Abell said. "That should all be part of this process."

Abell also stressed that INDOT would not issue its final 10-year construction plan until April, leaving plenty of time for revisions and additions based on traffic need, safety and available funding.

"We are going to build to whatever level we are funded," Abell said.

The following is a list of 20 major region road construction projects that were left off INDOT's preliminary 10-year plan. INDOT now is saying the first four projects on the list (in italics) are going to be built starting in 2006 and don't need to be on the 10-year list. An INDOT spokesman said the remaining 16 projects were left off the list because state calculations show that ground would not be broken for those projects within the next 10 years.

Location Construction type Projected cost

U.S. 41, Sheffield to U.S. 20 Reconstruction, median work $7.3 million
U.S. 41, Interstate 90 to Sheffield Reconstruction, median work $8.5 million
Ind. 53, U.S. 30 to 61st Reconstruction, median work $7.4 million
U.S. 41, 175th to 165th Reconstruction, median work $10 million

U.S. 12, U.S. 41 to 121st St. (Hammond/Whiting) Reconstruction $3.3 million
U.S. 20, U.S. 421 to U.S. 35/Ind. 212 Reconstruction, median work $9.8 million
Ind. 312, State Line Road to Sheffield Reconstruction $5.7 million
U.S. 35, Ind. 39 to Johnson/Severs Road Reconstruction $1.6 million
Ind. 53, 53rd to 35th (Gary) Reconstruction $2.2 million
U.S. 231/Ind. 55, between junctions (Crown Point) Reconstruction $1.2 million
Interstate 65, interchange with 109th Avenue Expansion $17 million
Ind. 55, Clark Street to Summit (Crown Point) Reconstruction $1.7 million
U.S. 6, Interstate 80/94 to Ridge Road Expansion $7.5 million
Ind. 2, Nicholas to Clark (Lowell) Reconstruction $5.5 million
U.S. 20, Ohio to U.S. 421(Michigan City) Expansion $1.2 million
Ind. 312, Columbia to Railroad (East Chicago) Expansion $2.8 million
Ind. 39, U.S. 35 to Severs (LaPorte) Expansion $1.2 million
U.S. 421, Ind. 2 to Interstate 80/90 (Westville) Expansion $4.8 million
Ind. 149, Lenburg Road to U.S. 20 (Burns Harbor) Expansion $2.7 million
Ind. 53, 25th Avenue to U.S. 12 (Gary) Reconstruction $2 million

nwitimes on Sunday, June 26, 2005
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