The Indiana Department of Transportation set record levels for investment in transportation and preservation in 2011, and we're gearing up for another great year in 2012.
In the 13 Northwest Indiana counties, INDOT's LaPorte District awarded contracts for $199.6 million in new projects in 2011.
Among the major milestones, we saw completion of the Borman reconstruction project near Interstate 65 in Gary and improvements along the busy Ind. 53 (Broadway) corridor in Crown Point.
Across the state, INDOT is expected to award 269 construction contracts worth $1.3 billion in 2012. More than $350 million of those will be in Northwest Indiana.
INDOT will begin a project to improve the safety at a busy intersection along Ind. 49 in Valparaiso by replacing it with an interchange. Work will take place to rehabilitate 4th and 5th Avenues in downtown Gary, and projects also will improve the U.S. 421 corridor in LaPorte County.
Work will begin this spring on the demolition of elevated portions of the old Cline Avenue bridge in East Chicago, the demolition and reconstruction of the Martin Luther King bridge in Gary, and a contract will be awarded in the fall to replace the Nine Span Bridge in Hammond in 2013.
As part of our effort to improve mobility and safety in the East Chicago area, we're making major improvements to automate the Dickey Road lift bridge. Lighting also will be improved along Riley and Dickey roads, and at the intersection of Ind. 912 and Michigan Street.
Input from Northwest Indiana residents will be crucial as INDOT and Illinois transportation officials work to identify potential routes for the Illiana Expressway project. Right now, the study committee is meeting with the public and local officials to develop alternatives for the potential routes the highway might take.
The purpose of this major project is to improve regional mobility and provide for efficient movement of freight through our area.
A big part of INDOT's mission is to operate, maintain and preserve INDOT's existing roadways and bridges. In Northwest Indiana alone, INDOT is responsible for more than 5,600 miles of highway, including more than 560 miles of interstate. We also maintain 824 bridges.
But INDOT is about more than just building highways and bridges. We maintain roads into the many state parks in Northwest Indiana, we mow 8,750 acres of grass along highways, and we're actively involved in environmental efforts like our wildflower program.
At various interchanges and in the medians of major highways, 272 acres of flowers not only provide beauty for travelers, but they also reduce the need for mowing and, in some cases, provide a natural winter snow fence.
This time of year, our crews work 12-hour shifts to make sure roads are kept clear of ice and snow. Travelers can get the latest winter road conditions by visiting INDOT's TrafficWise website at trafficwise.in.gov. The website is updated every few hours during snow events.
We take seriously our commitment to provide the safest transportation network possible for Northwest Indiana residents, and will continue our work to be fiscally responsible as we bring even more projects to you in the coming year.
Michael McPhillips is deputy commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation, overseeing the LaPorte District.