Chesterton Tribune

Traffic circle eyed for Indiana 49 in Porter

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Be prepared for a roundabout, intended to calm and control traffic on Indiana 49, as the new “front door” to the Indiana Dunes.

Porter director of engineering Matt Keiser reported Tuesday that the Indiana Department of Transportation has approved Porter’s Indiana 49 corridor feasibility study, released in April, that recommends a roundabout be installed at a new intersection north of Oak Hill Road to access attractions for Porter’s planned Gateway to the Indiana Dunes project.

The intersection also would become the main entrance to the Porter County Visitor Center.

Another recommendation in the study endorsed by INDOT is designing the roundabout with features that would facilitate safer truck operations on Indiana 49; in the alternative an evaluation is recommended to route trucks through other major arterials to improve efficiency and safety for motorists on Indiana 49.

Further, the study recommends Indiana 49 be reduced to two lanes from the proposed roundabout north to the U.S. 12 ramp intersections. That makes room for the Dunes Kankakee Trail that would parallel Indiana 49 with the highway also receiving aesthetic enhancements like trailheads, signage, crosswalks, lighting and landscaping within Porter town limits.

Keiser’s report was to the town’s Redevelopment Commission. After the meeting he said Gateway consultant SEH will start on concept drawings for elements of the Indiana 49 reconstruction and establish estimated costs for each.

In part the Gateway project is being funded with a $19 million grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. Keiser said INDOT will want the town, using RDA money, to pay for the Indiana 49 design and drawings.

In a related matter, Keiser told the commission the town can start the process to acquire drainage easements along Munson Ditch in the Gateway project area. Munson is a regulated Porter County drain but no assessments were charged so it wasn’t maintained, said Keiser later.

The ditch is a major drain in Porter and, once easements are obtained, would come under the jurisdiction of the town Stormwater Management Board. Porter will use an approximately $55,000 Lake Michigan Coastal grant matched with a like amount in RDA funds for land acquisition and an assessment of the ditch’s condition.

Tentative plans are to route the Dunes Kankakee Trail from Indiana 49 to Waverly Road along the Munson easement.

Brickyard to be split

According to Keiser, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management will allow the town to subdivide off as a separate outlot the contaminated portion of the 32-acre Brickyard parcel in order that redevelopment of the remaining acreage can take place.

Consultants have estimated 6 to 9 acres could be involved in the contamination/remediation depending on the future uses planned for those areas.

New 2011 testing to determine the nature and extent of contamination, likely residue from the former brickyard operations there, led an IDEM spokesperson earlier this month to tell the Chesterton Tribune it appears taking additional soil samples will be necessary.

Keiser said IDEM is reviewing the situation but because there’s no health or safety emergency involved, the agency’s formal response isn’t expected until December.

Keiser told the commission the Brickyard project will be a planned unit development, which has to be reviewed by the Plan Commission and approved by the Town Council; a new council takes office Jan. 1.

Tuesday, Redevelopment Commission and council member Michele Bollinger said she thought phasing the Brickyard was always in the plans. Keiser said it has an estimated 20-year build-out and it’s typical in redevelopment to do Phase 1 to pay for Phase 2.

Brickyard Trail progressing

The Brickyard hike/bike trail now under construction has the foundations in on either side of U.S. 20 near Howe Road to support a pedestrian bridge that will span the four-lane federal highway. Land-clearing for a foot bridge over U.S. 12 has begun as well.

The U.S. 20 bridge could be set at month’s end, said Keiser, when the highway will be closed minutes at a time yet remain open as a heavy-haul truck route. The $2.9 million Brickyard Trail project, which connects the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore trail system with downtown Porter, is slated to be completed in April, 2012.

After the meeting Keiser said the Duneland Group that designed the Brickyard Trail is drawing up plans for a fence, possibly split-rail, for along the trail edge on the west side of Sexton Avenue near Beam Street to provide protection from a sharp drop-off there.

Bollinger said due to Nov. 8 being election day, the Redevelopment Commission’s meeting that night probably will be canceled.



Posted 10/26/2011