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New state law allows municipalities to exhange funds on projects

VALPARAISO — The city may be one of the first municipalities to take advantage of a new state law that allows an exchange of federal money for state money on projects.

House Bill 1067 could allow Valparaiso — or any municipality — to exchange money and perhaps have lesser or different restrictions on projects, including time.

However, that’s still not certain because the Indiana Department of Transportation hasn’t written rules for the new law, said Mike Jabo of engineering firm DLZ.

The project that Valparaiso may exchange federal funds for state at 75 cents or more per dollar is improvements of Silhavy Road between LaPorte and Evans avenues.

Jabo spoke about the law, which passed April 18 and was signed by Gov. Mike Pence on May 2, at Wednesday’s Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission meeting.

Jabo said he’s talked to other states like Kansas, Oregon and Nebraska that have similar laws and found that “time is one of the biggest money savers.”

For the Silhavy project, the city must have things in place for work in 2015, City Engineer Tim Burkman said.

That gives Valparaiso about 18 months to plan it, and it took two years to plan the Silhavy and Vale Park Road roundabout.

“Eighteen months is a very tight window,” he said.

The city applied for federal money for the project in 2008 but transferred it to a Burlington Beach Road project.

City officials transferred $3.2 million back to the Silhavy project, and if the city doesn’t use it by deadline, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission may defund the project or put it on hold for years, Burkman said.

The project could make Silhavy three lanes or just make improvements at its intersections, as well as adding curbs and gutters.

Making the switch between the federal funds NIRPC controls and federal funds that go to INDOT could mean fewer restrictions.

The city could use existing easements to put in improvements on residents’ properties instead of having to negotiate for and buy the right of way from residents, saving time and money.

Both Jabo and Burkman said that until INDOT creates rules for the switches, nothing is certain.

The mayor and City Council must approve any funding switches.

Jabo plans to talk about the new law at NIRPC on Tuesday.



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