A STAFF REPORT
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Fireworks a no-go this Fourth of July?
That was no problem for those who gathered Wednesday to see some work on a tunnel instead.
As an audience watched, crews labored in record heat to make headway on the pedestrian/bicycle underpass at the railroad tracks that divide the Goshen College campus.
Jodi Beyeler, Goshen College public relations spokesperson, said Wednesday afternoon the project was on schedule and going well.
Shortly before noon, onlookers on the east side of the tracks — many sitting or standing on bleachers — peered over and through fencing at the work. A couple of misting tents provided a cooling respite.
Fran Wenger and Wilbur Birky, retired GC faculty members, chatted and watched the underpass project take shape. Birky had stopped by the work site three times to watch the action.
“It’s quite an operation,” he said.
Wenger said she was glad the project was being done. “It’s absolutely essential,” she said.
Birky said he didn’t ever recall seeing it, but he’d heard that GC students would occasionally “climb through” a stopped train.
Wenger said students would also try to beat the trains they knew were coming.
“Just like we do with cars at intersections in Goshen,” she said. “The same thing was happening here — running quickly, trying to make it.”
On a lighter note, Birky said GC students will no longer have a stopped train as an excuse for being late to class. Laughing, Wenger indicated she’d heard that excuse.
“Absolutely,” she said.
Beyeler said the morning crowd may have been up to 150 people, but it thinned to 25 to 40 at noontime. The temperature was in the 90s and it felt like 106, she said.
Local weather observers reported a record July 4 temperature in the Goshen area — 100 degrees, topping the old record by two degrees.
Beyeler explained that the construction crew had hoped to start on the project earlier Tuesday evening, but had to wait on the last train, which rolled through at 11:41 p.m.
After that, Norfolk Southern crews removed about 100 feet of rails and ties so Northern Indiana Construction and Niblock construction workers could complete the 18-foot deep excavation and install a pre-built concrete tube that will form the bicycle/pedestrian tunnel. That work was set to be complete by the end of the day Wednesady, with rails re-installed so trains could run on the line today.
City Engineer Mary Cripe had explained earlier that the $1.8 million project is considered part of the Goshen’s bicycle path system. College officials helped pay for the planning, and the construction is paid for with federal transportation funds through the Michiana Area Council of Governments.
Cripe said a live video of the work was featured on the college website and there is a blog about the work. She went on to explain that the construction project will continue to about October before it is completely finished.
Glen Gilbert, GC utilities manager, said early Wednesday evening that the progress was going fine and may have been slightly ahead of schedule
“It is going real smoothly,” Gilbert said. “We still have an audience of about 20 people. There was a crowd of more tha 100 at one time. There is alot of interest.”