Long construction period for Valpo’s Vale Park Road will be worth it, residents say
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent June 10, 2012 11:12PM
Trees are cleared from the area near the interestection of IN 49 and 400 N in Valparaiso Thursday June 7, 2012. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 12, 2012 6:04AM
VALPARAISO — For the next six months, the connection between Valparaiso and Washington Township is severed where Vale Park Road and County Road 400N connect over the highway.
Around Nov. 21, an overpass will join the two roads over Indiana 49, replacing the traffic light intersection that from 2008-2010 saw 103 vehicles in 54 accidents, 24 of those with serious injuries and two with deaths.
The project has two parts: The Indiana Department of Transportation is making the intersection safer and the overpass becomes what City Engineer Tim Burkman calls a gateway into the city, a decorative link with special lighting and a roundabout.
“The city is very excited about this project — excited about the safety and efficiency it’ll really bring to the community,” Burkman said.
When workers removed the traffic signals June 5, drivers got directed to east-west detours at either County Road 500N or south to Indiana 2, but Indiana 49 will remain unblocked, except for a few delays when workers install bridge girders.
Burkman said residents of the subdivisions just east of Indiana 49 might also use Barts Road to Evans Avenue, under Indiana 49.
“Local people are going to find their own way,” he said.
The safety factor seems to be enough that those inconvenienced by the closed roadway don’t mind the temporary inconvenience.
“Once it’s done, it’ll be easy again,” Washington Township resident Jeff Schroeder said. “It’s just a matter of time before somebody gets killed there again.”
In his 13 years in Washington Township, Schroeder has learned that motorists must wait until after the light turns green to make sure cross traffic, especially tractor-trailers, aren’t coming. The week before construction began, he saw three semis run a red light at one time, so having to drive farther north to get on Indiana 49 is worth it.
He said his neighbors are also willing to trade the inconvenience for a better crossing, but they’re curious about what’s going on.
Opportunity Enterprises, which is south of Vale Park on Silhavy Road, has about 200 handicapped clients coming in a day, 150 of those with the organization’s drivers.
“The drivers were informed about it prior, so they’ve had time to reroute,” OE transit manager Claudia Taylor said.
Route adjustments are similar to when the city installed the roundabout at Vale Park and Silhavy last year, and the city is helpful about giving information out.
Bob Shinske, store manager of WiseWay on Calumet Avenue, thinks that the overpass will affect the store’s business less than last year’s roundabout construction, because more paths will be open.
“It’s still early to see if it’s affecting us that much,” Shinske said.
The contractor hasn’t decided when the blocking of Indiana 49 happens yet, but the bridge girder delays shouldn’t be more than 20 minutes at a time, said Matt Deitchley, INDOT spokesman. Workers will wait until traffic slows down, about 7 p.m. or so, and shut down Indiana 49 in one direction at a time.
INDOT will notify the media and post it on Twitter and Facebook, Deitchley said. The agency will also have some sort of detour while that happens, and it should get done all in one day, he said.
The overpass will open for use Nov. 21, barring complications, and it will be two lanes but also have a pathway for walkers and bikers.
The city successfully lobbied INDOT to make the bridge more decorative than usual, and the underside will have stamped concrete with a Dunes-invoking design, decorative lighting and brickwork, plus roundabouts at the on- and off-ramps instead of a diamond or cloverleaf set-up.
That design will cost $7.855 million, cheaper than the $14.2 million for a cloverleaf or $8.76 million for a diamond interchange, such as the one Indiana 49 has with U.S. 6.
Diagrams of the new overpass and project and aerial overviews of the site are available at http://www.ci.valparaiso.in.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=1282.