GARY | City officials and Majestic Star management hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday morning for a project a decade and a half in the making.
"We believe this project provides a window to the future for our community," said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, as a fierce wind blew snowflakes around her at a podium set up on the shoulder of Buffington Harbor Drive.
The overpass and new stretch of road to be completed next year will eliminate the narrow lanes that duck under a railroad viaduct about 1/4 mile from the Majestic Star Casino. It was one of several road projects pledged to the casino from its earliest days in Gary. But financial constraints held up the project until this year.
Three years ago, city officials opened an exit ramp on Cline Avenue giving direct access to Buffington Harbor Drive built at a cost of $3.2 million.
The mayor said the new overpass and roadway will improve casino access and also provide important entry to other lakefront sites the city has long talked about developing. Those include recent proposals for a Lake Michigan port at Buffington Harbor.
With that in mind, the new overpass is not be named for the road it carries but instead is being called the "Gary Marina Overpass."
Chris Murphy, of engineering firm American Structurepoint, said with the elimination of the viaduct, trucks for the first time will be able to use Buffington Harbor Drive to access lakefront industries. Until now, they have had to use Clark Road to the east.
The $7 million project will be funded 80 percent with federal funds and 20 percent with city funds, Murphy said.
Majestic Star General Manager Craig Ghelfi said management and staff at the casino are excited about the project, which will ease access to the casino for customers.