new corridor outlined

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 11:09 AM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

A new road connecting with the Indiana Toll Road so trucks don't have to drive through LaPorte's downtown is again being looked at seriously.

The project costing roughly $130 million was outlined Tuesday night before close to 100 people at the Civic Auditorium.

Whether the up to four lane highway discussed for a half century will actually get built this time could be known by February of 2019 when an ongoing feasibility study is expected to be completed.

Supporters like Mike Seitz, director of economic development for LaPorte County government, hope so.

''It's a long time coming,'' Seitz said.

Seitz, former president of the Greater LaPorte Chamber of Commerce, said trucks getting in and out of the downtown quicker could help bring more industrial development and consumers by making the downtown more pedestrian friendly.

''People can find places to park without worrying about their mirrors getting torn off by trucks,'' Seitz said.

Supporters point to Valparaiso and its vibrant user friendly downtown after Indiana 49 was constructed just east of the city on what can happen here.

Lochmueller Group, Inc. with offices in Indianapolis and South Bend have identified four possible routes all starting at or near Boyd Boulevard beside U.S 35 on the city's south side.

The roughly eight mile road would loop around the downtown to the east then north of Indiana 2 at Range Road veer west until reaching the Toll Road at Indiana 39.

Leigh Morris, a former mayor in LaPorte, said lack of such a road is a factor in the longstanding struggles to bring major industrial type development just five miles to the south at Kingsbury Industrial Park.

A high percentage of the heavy volume of trucks generated there would have to go through downtown.

''The transportation access is not good. It's difficult to get to the interstate highway systems and that's really important to many of the major employers,'' Morris said.

The project again could face stiff opposition from people in rural areas close to where the road would go in.

Many of them like Judy Pearce, who has a six acre farm at 50 West and 350 North, feel the city's future not theirs seems to have top priority.

''A lot of this I probably won't live to see but I have children, grandchildren. Great grandchildren. I want them to be able to experience the good country life that I was able to,'' she said.

The study was ordered by LaPorte County and is being paid for with federal dollars.

Financing actual construction has not been secured yet but 80-percent of the cost for construction like this usually are paid for with federal dollars, said David Goffinet of the Lochmueller Group.