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Portage makes progress on two old projects

Updated: March 12, 2013 6:08AM



Two long-dormant multimillion-dollar engineering and construction projects are being readied to see the light of day in Portage, according to A.J. Monroe, director of Public Works.

“These projects have been around for quite a while. There are some opportunities now to move them forward,” Monroe said.

The first project is an ecological restoration of the upland habitat along the Burns Waterway. It includes naturalizing the waterway and making public property accessible.

The project area is south of Precoat Metals and is approximately 40 to 45 acres in size.

Funding for the project is a combination of $3 million to $4 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local matching funds. The local match will be in-kind donations now held by the Portage Park Foundation and Portage Redevelopment Commission.

The work is a directly related to the Marquette Plan advocated by U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Merrillville. “(He) was instrumental in securing the funding,” Monroe said.

This project is distinct from the ongoing Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk enhancement. “The two projects need to be in concert,” Monroe said.

Monroe said he received a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers telling him the project agreement is nearing approval and nearing project design talks.

Road upgrade

A major bottleneck in Portage is moving toward resolution. The long-stalled project to replace the one-lane railroad bridge on Samuelson Road is nearing the design phase.

Visclosky secured a $3 million earmark for this project in 2001 or 2002, according to Monroe. Nothing was done at the time because, “the project cost was so daunting,” he said. The federal money is still available.

Monroe expects to receive statements of interest from engineering design firms by Feb. 25.

The work will occur in stages. “It will be difficult to conduct this work in one phase,” he said.

Improving site lines and installing pedestrian facilities along Samuelson Road will take place in the project’s first phase.

Sidewalks and a pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks will be built on the east side of Samuelson. It is intended to remain in place after the two-lane bridge is built.

The actual bridge replacement is still off in the future and will require negotiations with CSX railroad. The railroad will likely be responsible for rebuilding the bridge.

“We need to move forward with the phase of the project that is in our control,” Monroe said.



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