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45th Street/Calumet Avenue project could start next year

Updated: March 13, 2014 6:42AM



PORTAGE — Munster officials have long sought a solution to traffic problems at 45th Street and Calumet Avenue, where trains can back up traffic for 45 minutes.

Now, work on a project to have the traffic flow under the rail line could start as soon as 2015.

That was the latest update provided at Tuesday’s Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s transportation policy committee meeting.

The first phase of the grade-separation project, estimated to cost $28 million, would reconstruct about 800 feet of the eastern part of 45th Street to run through the site of Munster Steel, which is moving to Hammond.

The Canadian National tracks will be elevated on an overpass, and the second phase of the project — estimated at $20 million — calls for an underpass connecting the north and south sides of Calumet Avenue.

Joe Nordman, the senior project manager from Robinson Engineering, said town officials are discussing a property transfer from Munster Steel to gain the right-of-way.

The project will be paid for with state and federal funds, Munster’s TIF funds and some money from NIRPC.

Concurrently, the town will extend the Pennsy Greenway trail south of its current end point of Fisher Street to take a diagonal route across Calumet Avenue and 45th Street via a tunnel and an overpass to Centennial Park.

Nordman said officials hope to start letting bids for the project in spring 2015, but a few stumbling blocks remain.

Nordman said engineers are meeting with utilities in March, and are trying to meet with CN officials to avoid building temporary tracks (known as a shoo-fly) that could add up to $8 million to the cost of the project.

Instead, Nordman said, “we’re trying to do a short-term shutdown of the railroad.”

In other news, NICTD grant administrator Joe Crnkovich said ridership on the South Shore railroad was down 9 percent in January, due to severe weather that affected service and even forced the line to shut down completely Jan. 6.

Gary’s bus service saw a similar downturn, said David Wright, marketing manager for the Gary Public Transportation Corp.

NIRPC Planning Manager Eman Ibrahim also announced seven Creating Livable Communities grants — totaling $402,000 — for seven communities:

Chesterton’s Calumet Connection/Dunes Kankakee Trail project: $24,000

Crown Point’s North Street Corridor Vision and Guideline Plan: $72,000

East Chicago’s transit-oriented development project for the Roxana, South Side and Calumet areas: $60,000

Gary’s urban revitalization plans for Downtown/Emerson and Horace Mann: $150,000

Downtown Highland Kennedy Avenue Corridor Plan: $24,000

Downtown Porter improvements: $32,000

Downtown Winfield master plan: $40,000



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