Portage to make hard decisions on infrastructure needs

2013-04-28T00:00:00Z Portage to make hard decisions on infrastructure needsJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | It isn't a surprise that some of the city's streets are in desperate need of repair.

Drivers know it. City officials do too.

The solution, said Director of Public Works A.J. Monroe, won't be easy to come by.

He told the city's Redevelopment Commission this past week that officials have some hard decisions to make about what to do with the city's infrastructure.

One example is the project aimed at reconstructing Central Avenue east of Hamstrom Road. It has been on the city's books since about 2005, said Monroe, when the city initially received federal funding.

The project initially went to improve Central Avenue to alleviate traffic congestion. It was expanded, he said, to include drainage work and extended eastward to Scott Street and includes a traffic signal at Airport Road.

That project likely won't begin construction until 2015 or 2016 and will take two years to complete, said Monroe.

"The road is not going to make it. We have decisions to make as a city," said Monroe, adding the city has already spent about $900,000 on the project and probably will spent $1.125 million more if it continues to move forward.

Part of the reason the project has taken so long is because the city extended its intent. Also, said Monroe, because it is a federally-funded project it has gotten "bogged down in process."

The Redevelopment Commission recently improved updating title work for property along the Central Avenue right-of-way, property, said Monroe, the city already has title to, but because of federal requirements, must update the work.

"Is this the best thing to do?" Monroe asked about continue with the project. "We have to look and find ways to get it paved."

There are other federally-funded projects that have been on the city's drawing board for year that are not near ready for constructing, including improvements to Central Avenue west of Willowcreek Road and the development of the second phase of Iron Horse Heritage Trail.

As for the Central Avenue west project, which would rebuild the roadway from Willowcreek to County Line Road, the city has spent $470,000 and only has 30 percent complete drawings. The same is true for the trail project.

Monroe said the city needs to have discussions about these projects and others to determine if they should move forward or if the funds should be appropriated for other projects, possibly still federally-funded, but easier to complete.

There also needs to be discussions with other organizations, said both Monroe and Mayor James Snyder.

The Indiana Toll Road crosses several city streets and, said Snyder, Portage is unique in that the toll road exits onto city streets instead of state highways.

They said they have been talking to the Indiana Department of Transportation and need to begin conversations with the company that leases the toll road, ITR Concession Co., to determine how they can work together.


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