When it comes to the Dickinson Road extension, it’s time to fish or cut
That’s the view of Chesterton Redevelopment Commissioner Member Jim Ton, who
at Monday’s meeting said that the feasibility of the project—including its
fundability—needs to be determined, so that the commission can either pursue
it or earmark tax increment financing funds for other uses.
His colleagues agreed with him and accordingly instructed Town Attorney
Chuck Lukmann and Town Engineer Mark O’Dell to prepare information on a
The commission last seriously grappled with the Dickinson Road extension—in
brief, the proposed connection of Indian Boundary Road to Sidewalk Road via
Sand Creek Drive or Council Drive—in 2006, when the decision was made to
back-burner the issue in favor of the South Calumet District project.
But in October 2009 Town Council Member — now Commission Member — Jeff
Trout, R-2nd, raised the issue again and in March he was joined by Ton, both
of whom argued the need for a north/south thoroughfare east of Ind. 49.
“What do we need to do next?” Ton asked Lukmann on Monday.
“I’ve been convinced for years we’re not going to get federal or state money
from (the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission) because it’s
not a regional project,” Lukmann replied. “We’ve got to come to grips. Is it
a project? Where are we going to connect? How are we going to fund it?”
Member Sharon Darnell recalled her concern with the project four years ago,
when she voiced her fear that a Dickinson Road extension would “virtually
create another Downtown district” and one directly in competition with the
existing one. “That one reason we didn’t push ahead,” she said.
But Darnell agreed with Ton and Trout that the construction on Indian
Boundary Road of a 24-hour free-standing emergency department—a project
slated to begin in October—is likely to change traffic patterns
significantly on the east side of Ind. 49.
O’Dell, for his part, recalled a meeting in 2006 with the Indiana Department
of Transportation in Indianapolis. “And there was bad news, and there was
bad news, and there was bad news.”
The worst news, of course, is the necessity of traversing, one way or
another, the railroad tracks plump in the middle of any chosen route. As DLZ
engineer Mike Jabo noted from the floor, you can either go over the tracks,
under them, or across them, and the first two options will cost millions.
The railroad, on the other hand, isn’t likely to approve another
grade-crossing in town without some sort of concession, like the closure of
In any case, Jabo said, in order to qualify for any kind of federal funding,
the commission will have to demonstrate a real need. “If you don’t have the
traffic” to justify it, “it’s hard to go knocking on the federal door. Will
it take traffic from Ind. 49?”
A feasibility study, members agreed, would go a long way toward answering
that and other questions. By a 3-0 vote, they authorized Lukmann and O’Dell
to prepare information about such a study. Members Mark Singer and Ed
Schoenfelt were not in attendance.
New or Extended
In other business, mMembers voted 3-0 to instruct Lukmann to investigate the
extension of the current TIF district—or otherwise the creation of a new
one—to incorporate recently annexed property south of the Indiana Toll Road
and both east and west of Ind. 49: the so-called Rossman and Pope
“There’s been a lot of rumbling about development there,” Trout said, and it
would be a good idea to be ahead of the curve.
Meanwhile, O’Dell said, work is gradually drawing to a close in the South
Calumet District, with general contractor G.E. Marshall set to stripe the
north manifold entrance along South Calumet Road north of Beverly Drive; and
landscape contractor Larson-Danielson Construction Company scheduled to
complete the final lighting at the focal elements and gateways as well as
the final grading and restoration.
A few miscellaneous items remain—chiefly, so far as the commission is
concerned, a street light which hasn’t worked since July at the north
end—but O’Dell reminded members that G.E. Marshall won’t get a dime of the
$118,000 retainage until the punch-list has been completed.
Members voted 3-0 to approve the following claims: $36,201.84 from
Larson-Danielson; $6,976 from DLZ; and $102,387.08 from G.E. Marshall.
Members also voted 3-0 to approve Change Order No. 5, which increased the
original contract price for Phase II of the project of $2,076,997.67 by
$116,340.58. Much of the change order was due to the unexpected need for
additional stone ($25,600.50) and asphalt ($41,765.84). O’Dell did say that
the commission paid 2009 prices for the materials.
Change orders have increased the total price of Phase II by $297,534.59 for
an overrun of around 14 percent.