Chesterton Tribune

Hurdles continue to grow for any Dickinson Road extension

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Should the Chesterton Redevelopment Commission spend as much as $100,000 on a scoping report—a sort of where-do-we-go-now document—in its pursuit of a Dickinson Road extension which is looking increasingly to be a project very nearly impossible to fund through government grants and subsidies?

Or should the commission wait until the taxing increment financing (TIF) district has generated sufficient revenues to finance a bond issue to fund the project?

That’s the question members will mull at their next meeting, Nov. 22.

At their meeting Monday night, Town Engineer Mark O’Dell presented a report which makes for gloomy reading. Although, he said, the town’s previous contracted engineering firm conducted a traffic study in 1994 projecting almost a four-fold increase in volume on Ind. 49 over the next 10 years—as part of its application to the Indiana Finance Authority for a grant for a Dickinson Road extension—nine years later a new traffic study showed that there had been a growth rate of traffic of only 1.9 percent per year.

More to the point, to obtain most types of federal funding, the project needs to be included in the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s Connections 2030 Regional Transportation Plan. But the project isn’t so included, O’Dell said, because it wasn’t scored high enough to be considered of “regional benefit,” because it wouldn’t in NIRPC’s view affect the “level of service” on Ind. 49, and because it would sufficiently improve the “regional air quality.”

Possibly, O’Dell said, the commission could seek a federal earmark from U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, but at an estimated construction cost of $10 million, that would be a pretty salty earmark.

And there’s another issue: Norfolk Southern Railroad would need to approve the project, since it would either have to pay 5 percent of the cost of grade separation—and would require the town to close two grade-crossings elsewhere in Chesterton’s jurisdiction—or it would have to assume responsibility for maintaining a bridge should the commission decide to build an underpass.

An overpass, O’Dell observed, is not a feasible option due to the required height clearance.

If the commission were of a mind to, it could pursue a “scoping report” to determine the purpose and need of the project and address the various issues. Or—and this is O’Dell’s recommendation—it could wait until the TIF district is generating sufficient revenues to finance a bond issue for the project.

Member Jim Ton, for one, expressed the fear that land needed for right-of-way could end up being developed if the commission waits for any length of time. “And once the land is gone, it’s gone,” he said.

Members will consider the issue again at their next meeting.

TIF District Expansion

In other business, members voted 4-0 to adopt a resolution seeking the state’s approval of an expansion of the TIF district south of the Indiana Toll Road to include two separate parcels, totaling approximately 142 acres, annexed over the last few years: the so-called Rossman property, east of Ind. 49; and the so-called Pope property, chiefly west of Ind. 49.

Member Mark Singer was not in attendance.

Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann said that the specific projects for which the expansion is being sought include roadway improvements and signalization at the intersection of Ind. 49 and C.R. 950N; and the installation of sanitary sewer, water, and fiber optic infrastructure, all part of the envisioned Ind. 49 utility corridor.

How long before we hear something from the state? queried Member Jeff Trout.

“Not very long,” Lukmann said. “We should know something within the next few weeks.”

A portion of the property in question is being eyed by Persistence LLC, the Portage-based developer currently seeking recovery-zone bond commitments to build a $40 million indoor sports facility on the northern part of the Rossman property.

South Calumet District Update

Meanwhile, the South Calumet District project is all done bar the shouting, Town Engineer Mark O’Dell reported. “Everything’s completed,” he said.

General contractor G.E. Marshall Inc. does have to resolve an issue concerning street-pole accessories, O’Dell noted: banner arms need to be installed on some of them.

Street- and landscaping contractor Larson-Danielson Construction Company also has a contractual obligation to maintain all plant materials through Nov. 25, O’Dell added. Ron Steve of DLZ, the contracted construction manager for the project, said that six trees will eventually have to be replaced but may not be this season if suitable species can’t be found. There is a one-year warranty on all plant materials.

Claims

Members voted 4-0 to approve the following claims: $6,536.50 from Harris Welsh & Lukmann; $3,396.31 from Roadsafe Traffic Systems; $93,807.23 from G.E. Marshall; $224 from Interstate Rentals; and $23,000.35 from Larson-Danielson.

Members also voted 4-0 to approve Change Order No. 3 for Phase III of the South Calumet District project: the street- and landscaping phase. That change order is a deduct of $2,059.65, the savings incurred when the decision was made to replace some sodding with grass seed. The new contract price of $460,106.97 reflects a 2.5-percent increase over the original contract price of $448,936.07.

 

 

 

Posted 10/28/2010