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Gary breaks ground on casino access road

Chris Murphy Vice President for American Structurepoint stands in
front concrete barriers thwill make way for new access road to
Majestic Star

Chris Murphy, a Vice President for American Structurepoint, stands in front of concrete barriers that will make way for a new access road to Majestic Star Casino. | Carole Carlson/Post-Tribune

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Updated: January 19, 2014 11:56AM

GARY — A bundled-up Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson called the frigid, snowy landscape behind this dead-end road “a window to the future” on Tuesday.

With the wind whipping and snowflakes falling, the city broke ground on the long-anticipated $10 million vehicle overpass and access road at Majestic Star Casino in Buffington Harbor. Federal funding, secured with help from U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, is paying for 80 percent of the road, while the city’s share is about 20 percent.

Stalled since 1999, the road is now on course to open next year, said American Structurepoint Vice President Chris Murphy, whose firm is designing the project.

The thaw in the long-drawn out project came during talks that led to a settlement with Majestic Star over a 2005 local development agreement centering on the access road. Former casino owner Don Barden sued the city in 2008 over what he termed unmet obligations; he also withheld casino payments due to the city that now total about $15 million. “I thought that partnership was too valuable not to be able to resolve our differences and move forward,” Freeman-Wilson said after the groundbreaking.

Majestic Star operates two gaming boats at Buffington Harbor that are now owned by Wayzata Investment Partners, of Minnesota. Wayzata, a former Majestic creditor, bought it out of bankruptcy in 2011.

The new road from Cline Avenue will bring casino traffic across an overpass and directly to the casino’s parking garage. Now, casino visitors must navigate a longer road under a railroad viaduct along Buffington Harbor Drive. Some large trucks and other vehicles are unable to reach the casino directly because of the viaduct.

The road will also provide direct access to the city’s industrial corridor of steel mill suppliers such as Carmeuse Lime Inc. and Praxair.

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