The City of Wabash is due to receive $8.56 million to construct a railroad overpass in the downtown area.
Gov. Eric Holcomb officially presented the check to Mayor Scott Long, City Council President Eric Schoening and Street Superintendent Scott Richardson in Gary in mid-December. The funding comes from the state's Local Trax Rail Overpass Program, which provides grants to communities looking to improve traffic flow that intersects with local railway systems.
Long said an alternate route for traffic during a train blockage is vital for Wabash.
“Since I took office on January 1, 2016, there have been approximately 17 blockages of the local railroad crossings due to a number of reasons, including mechanical breakdowns, signal stops on the outskirts of town, and one derailment,” he said. “Blockages prevent emergency response from the north side of the tracks to the south side of the tracks, where our downtown and south side residents are, from being accomplished in a timely manner.”
He said the current underpass running through City Park on Vermont Street is adequate, but nearly impossible for ambulances to travel on with its 90-degree right hand turn, narrow roadway and congested traffic during a train blockage.
“Mere minutes can sometimes be the difference between life and death, and we need to shave as much time off of transports as we can. This overpass will accomplish this,” he said.
He anticipates that with a new overpass, estimated to be completed in five years, residents will still opt for the Vermont Street underpass out of habit.
“The fact that we are building an overpass doesn’t necessarily mean that people will travel to that overpass to cross town, they will continue to use the crossings that they are accustomed to,” he said. “... I don’t foresee this type of traffic using the overpass unless the crossings are blocked for an extended period of time. If that occurs and there will be an extended blockage of crossings, we have personnel that can safely direct that type of traffic through the neighborhood.”
American Structurepoint, an engineering firm selected by the city to complete a grade separation feasibility study to locate an overpass or an underpass somewhere in Wabash, proposed East Street as a possible area of interest. Long said American Structurepoint’s data was used in a presentation to the Indiana Department of Transportation in order to receive the grant.
INDOT then selected WSP Engineering, a firm based out of New York, to perform a location study. Long said the firm has not held an initial meeting with the city, but he anticipates talks about the East Street location and other matters later this month.