I-65 makeover to start next month

2013-03-12T20:00:00Z 2013-03-13T12:39:03Z I-65 makeover to start next monthKeith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

Interstate 65 will be reconstructed between U.S. 231 and Ind. 2 starting in April, in what could be a prelude to a larger project that would add third lanes to the expressway between U.S. 231 and U.S. 30.

The reconstruction work between U.S. 231 and Ind. 2 was one of several Indiana Department of Transportation projects reported on at Tuesday's meeting of a Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission committee at Michigan City City Hall. An update also was given on the proposed Illiana Expressway.

"We are really trying to get the local community input," said INDOT spokesman Jim Pinkerton. "And we will be working closely with NIRPC staff."

The six-mile stretch of I-65 to be reconstructed this summer is where the primary Indiana junction is planned for the Illiana Expressway.

The planned expressway would start at Interstate 65 just south of 153rd Avenue and run approximately due west between Lowell and Cedar Lake, pass south of the site of a proposed airport at Peotone and on to Interstate 55 in Illinois.

The Illiana Expressway also appears to be one factor driving the addition of third lanes to I-65 north of U.S. 231, as feasibility studies have shown the Illiana Expressway would significantly increase traffic on the north-south expressway.

INDOT already has asked NIRPC to do the preparatory work for the third lane project, including doing air quality studies, said NIRPC Transportation Planning Manager Bill Brown. It could be let for bid sometime in the next two years.

It also wants to see NIRPC's 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan updated to include the Illiana Expressway.

"They would like to see the Illiana in our plan this year," Brown said. "So it makes sense to deal with I-65 as a companion."

The I-65 third lane project will be made easier by the fact that shoulders on that stretch of expressway were built strong enough to carry a third lane when the road was last reconstructed.

Rieth-Riley Construction, of Goshen, Ind., won the $14.9 million contract for the reconstruction of I-65 between U.S. 231 and Ind. 2. It is slated for completion in November.

The I-65 project won't be the only one inconveniencing motorists this summer. INDOT also has received bids for replacing bridge decks on Interstate 94 about one mile east of the Ripley interchange where the expressway passes over U.S. 20.

Ellas Construction Co. Inc., of Gary, was the apparent low bidder last week at $8.25 million. The contract will be awarded this week or next. Construction is slated to begin next month and finish up in November.

With both the I-94 and I-65 projects, INDOT will attempt to have as much of the work as possible done at night to minimize traffic disruptions, Jim Pinkerton said.

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