Valpo seeks consultants for 3 highway projects

2013-08-18T19:00:00Z 2013-08-19T11:45:05Z Valpo seeks consultants for 3 highway projectsPhil Wieland, (219) 548-4352

VALPARAISO | The city has started the process of choosing consultants for three projects to be done over the next three years, including safety improvements to Ransom Road's notorious "roller coaster hills."

Engineering Director Tim Burkman met with about a dozen representatives of consulting firms Thursday to explain the projects and answer questions. Proposals from the consultants are due Aug. 28 at city hall, but it will be November or December before any contracts are finally approved, Burkman said.

In addition to the Ransom improvements, the other projects the city is seeking help on are:

  • Improvements to traffic signals and signs at 20 intersections.
  • Reconstruction of Silhavy Road from LaPorte Avenue to Evans Avenue and safety improvements to the Silhavy/LaPorte intersection, including the possibility of replacing it with a roundabout.

Burkman said the improvements to the signalized intersections could be completed in 2014. He said at least 10 intersections need chirping pedestrian signals, and illuminated street signs with battery backups are needed at another 10 intersections. Emergency vehicle preemption devices are needed at 17 intersections.

The consultants also will be asked suggest other safety improvements. A preliminary construction budget of $300,000 has been set, and the city plans to use federal surface transportation program funds to pay for 80 percent of the cost.

The Ransom improvements would be done along the mile-long section from Froberg Road to County Road 50 West. Burkman said 20 accidents have been recorded in that section between 2010 and 2012 with six involving injuries. Eleven of the accidents occurred at night and in five accidents the vehicles went off the road.

The roller coaster-like contour limits sight distance, and the road has little or no shoulder. Among the safety improvements to be studied are better lighting, signs, shoulders and rumble strips. The city also plans to extend the pathway on the north side of Ransom from Lake Meadow Drive to 50 West and build a sidewalk on 50 West from Ransom to an existing sidewalk about 750 feet north.

The construction budget is estimated at $350,000, and the city hopes to get a federal highway safety improvement program grant to cover 90 percent of that.

The Silhavy/LaPorte intersection finishes near the top of the list each year for the number of accidents, and it was third with 26 in 2012. Burkman said a major factor is the volume of traffic, which was about 28,500, with 20,000 on LaPorte, making it one of the busiest intersections in the city.

Complicating the overall traffic flow is southbound traffic making a left turn into the north entrance of the Valparaiso Walk shopping center. Burkman said the city wants a consultant to look at the feasibility of a multi-lane roundabout for the intersection rather than traditional safety improvements.

The city wants to reconstruct Silhavy north of the intersection with turn lanes, curbs and gutters, storm sewers and new traffic signals. Burkman said the city has had requests for a signal at Chicago Street and Silhavy and needs to know if that is warranted or if other measures can be taken to improve traffic flow.

The Evans/Silhavy intersection sometimes floods and the city wants improvements to direct the water to the Hotter Lagoon or to the detention basin at Chicago Street. A reconfiguration of the Evans intersection that would have cost $1.7 million was designed in 2011, but the city opted for a temporary fix that Burkman said is working well.

The Silhavy/LaPorte intersection was estimated at $2.2 million and the Silhavy corridor to Evans cost was set at $3.1 million. Federal funds would cover 80 percent of the cost. Burkman said combining the two under one consultant could reduce the overall cost.

Burkman said it would take the city about two weeks to pick a preferred consultant, but it would take another two or three months to get state approval, negotiate a final contract and get that approved. The Ransom work could be ready for 2015, while the Silhavy and LaPorte project probably won't be done until 2016.

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