MUNSTER — Gov. Eric Holcomb believes the shared funding arrangement that has made possible the long-sought realignment of the problematic intersection at 45th Street and Calumet Avenue could serve as a model for other Indiana communities.
On Friday, the Republican chief executive toured the sprawling construction site to get a first-hand look at how $27 million of local, regional, state and federal revenue is being put to use to alleviate traffic congestion and spur business and residential development.
Holcomb walked several blocks along the closed portion of 45th Street east of Calumet to see where the street is being realigned to directly connect with 45th Street west of Calumet.
He also witnessed workers beginning the process of laying temporary railroad tracks, known as a shoo fly, that will allow uninterrupted service for Canadian National trains while an underpass is constructed that will bring 45th Street under the two train lines.
A proposed second underpass taking Calumet Avenue beneath the tracks has been scrapped. But the key Region artery will be squeezed next year to one lane in each direction so the road can be fully rebuilt by December 2020.
"This is a massive project. That's not an overstatement. This is a transformational project," Holcomb said. "Big for any community, to be quite honest with you. This would be big for the capital city of our state to be pulling off."
The governor acknowledged that it wasn't easy for Munster to move from drawing board to digging after Munster Town Manager Dustin Anderson detailed how the project repeatedly changed in size and scope over several decades.
But Holcomb said because Munster leaders never gave up, and made the effort to convince others of the value of the project, they eventually were able to bring partners on board with the funding necessary to "ease years of frustrations."
"A record amount of investment into these priority projects doesn't happen without being partners," Holcomb said. "You proved it again here in Munster."
"This is going to be a model for the rest of the state on how projects can go from a shelf to reality."
Anderson said despite the short-term pain for some motorists, the planning for and now the actual realignment of 45th Street and construction of the railroad underpass already are attracting new office, retail and residential development to the area.
"Just in six short years, the face of this little corner of Munster, and this corner of the Region has been transformed," he said.
"I think in no small part by the dedication of the town council of Munster to keep pushing this idea. This was not easy and the council didn't give up."
State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, a member of the Indiana House Roads and Transportation Committee, said she's grateful that Holcomb came in person to affirm that Munster is on the right track.
"Any time you can get the governor to come see what's going on in the Region is a good thing," she said. "I think it's impressive that we have multiple funding sources for this project, and it shows that when we all collaborate we can actually get things done."