MUNSTER | Beginning to end the traffic gridlock on Calumet Avenue at the Canadian National railroad tracks is still three or four years away, but progress is being made on the first phase of the project, said Town Manager Tom DeGiulio.
“The engineer’s report, laying out the options and the environmental impacts, is completed,” DeGiulio said. “We have a meeting Monday in Indianapolis to lobby for construction money for the first phase.”
Town officials, including DeGiulio and several members of the Town Council, will meet with Indiana Department of Transportation officials seeking that funding for Phase 1 of the Calumet Avenue/45th Avenue grade separation project.
“There’s been a change in administration (in Indiana) and a new biennial budget,” DeGiulio said. “What we plan is to get INDOT on board and to provide the state funding portion.”
The underpass/overpass project already has federal backing, some financing from the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission and money being set aside from Munster’s tax increment financing district redevelopment fund, he said.
“We are also meeting with the RDA (Regional Development Authority),” DeGiulio said. “And we’re working with the Centennial Village developer.”
Phase 1 is expected to cost $20 million and will involve building the east-west route for traffic. Key to that portion of the project is moving Munster Steel to its new Hammond location and demolishing that longtime Munster building.
A road then can be built that will take traffic from 45th Street west of Calumet Avenue on a curved road past Calumet Avenue.
That road, 45th Street, must come first because Calumet Avenue eventually will be closed to traffic, as a temporary track will be built so trains still can run while an rail overpass is built.
Work on the north-south leg of the project will turn Calumet Avenue into an underpass road that moves traffic along without having to stop for trains.
“The nice part about the project is that it can be done with minimal interruption,” DeGiulio said.
Work on Phase 1 is expected to begin in 2016 or 2017, he said.
In the meantime, traffic headaches will increase along Calumet Avenue and 45th Street, DeGiulio said.
“The town was given notice that CN leased that portion of track to CSX ,” he said. “That will mean more trains at that crossing. CSX is posting signs at that intersection.”