VALPARAISO | The city will kick off the Thanksgiving weekend with something motorists can be thankful for: the opening of the new interchange at Ind. 49 and Vale Park Road.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 11 a.m. Wednesday just east of the roundabout at Vale Park and Silhavy Road. A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation said the $7.2 million project is being opened a week and a half ahead of schedule and was completed by G.E. Marshall within budget.
"It's a big project that will have a tremendous impact on the city in many ways," Mayor Jon Costas said. "First, it will make a very dangerous intersection very safe. That alone will be a tremendous improvement. Second, it will improve the traffic flow on 49 and make it easier to get in and out of the city."
The city's Redevelopment Commission chipped in $200,000 extra for aesthetic features to enhance the interchange's appearance. The city's name will appear on each side with backlit lettering, and the bridge will have decorative lighting. It also will include a pathway to provide access for joggers and bicyclists, a feature favored by Costas.
"There are very few interchange bridges that have a separate pathway combined with the road," he said. "I know that is a popular path for runners and bikers, and now they will be able to go from one side of the city to the other. It's another innovation we worked with INDOT to accomplish. It's beautiful and speaks well for the city. We've had terrible losses of life there over the years, and now it will be much safer."
City Engineering Director Tim Burkman said a separate landscaping component will be designed next year for construction in 2014 with funds from the Redevelopment Commission. Some seeding and other minor work will be completed by INDOT in the spring. The landscaping design will focus on native, low maintenance plants.
"This is a tremendous addition to the east side, and we are excited about the improvement it will offer for safety," Burkman said. "(The landscaping) will offer another opportunity to further enhance this as a gateway into the city."
While the overpass will provide a much safer passage for traffic, not everyone will be thankful for the design. Its "dogbone" road layout, with a roundabout at each end aligned with the access ramps, might not be popular with some drivers who have objected to the city's other roundabouts.