MUNSTER — Commuters beware, the business-packed and commuter-stacked stretch of Calumet Avenue is set to reduce to one lane each way in preparation of a massive two-year project that will transform the area, officials say.
Beginning May 6, traffic will be restricted to one lane north and one lane south on Calumet Avenue between eastbound 45th Street to the north and Superior Drive to the south. The restrictions are set to stretch until December.
Part of the project will focus on making the Calumet Avenue and 45th Street intersection a four-way intersection, which means that 45th Street must be moved under the railroad tracks, officials said.
The scope of the project includes building an underpass for 45th Street below the Canadian National Railroad and realigning 45th Street east of Calumet Avenue in order to meet 45th Street west of Calumet.
Detours are normally put in place for closed streets rather than lane restrictions, but drivers will want to avoid the congestion if they can.
“Munster residents in that part of town will without a doubt be majorly inconvenienced,” Munster Town Manager Dustin Anderson said.
The town said 45th Street will not close until Main Street re-opens in early June following a major bridge replacement project, making it a temporary relief for those hoping to use 45th Street to limit their time on Calumet Avenue.
However, once 45th Street closes, local drivers will need to detour from Calumet Avenue to Fran-Lin Parkway around the closure and back to the open portion of 45th Street.
Regional and truck traffic should try to avoid the area completely and use U.S. 41, U.S. 30, Glenwood Dyer Road, Torrence Avenue and I-80, which all lie in the perimeters of the construction congestion.
“Those who don't live or work in that area of Munster will want to avoid the intersection altogether to avoid getting jammed in traffic,” Anderson said.
Keeping public safety in mind, the town will have ambulances and police stationed south of the railroad tracks 24/7, Anderson said.
While the lane and street closures will add up to a highly congested roadway, officials say the ultimate goal is to solve an even larger math problem that the town has wanted to alleviate for some time.
An estimated 40,000 vehicles drive on Calumet Avenue and about 15,000 drive across 45th Street every day, which adds up to 55,000 vehicles packed within an 800-foot stretch on Calumet Avenue, the town said. The Canadian National rail line that cuts across Calumet Avenue can accommodate 24 trains every day. With those elements combined, traffic can be “unbearable” at times, the town said.
“I honestly think in the long term it will be absolutely worth it,” Anderson said. “I think that if you ask people, without thinking of their day-to-day traveling woes — which are very real — if this will ultimately be worth it, they'd say yes.”
The infrastructure project was created to reduce traffic congestion around that area, as well as promote nearby development, the town said. Right next to the recently built Springhill Suites and Centennial Village's line-up of eateries along Calumet Avenue is the planned site for condos, retail stores and offices at the 45th Avenue and Calumet Avenue intersection.
Architects' plans for the underpass for 45th Street will include sidewalks on each side of the underpass and bridge, as well as a nearby bike path.
Other improvements to the intersection include the construction of dedicated westbound and northbound turn lanes and additional center-line medians.
The project is set to span at least two years and will create substantial closures and restrictions in the process. More information and updates on the project can be found on munster.org's current projects page.
“We are anticipating the intersection will be completely re-imagined and will contribute to the continued vibrancy of Calumet and 45th,” Anderson said.
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