Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

August 23, 2013

Funding agreement reached on C.R. 6 roadwork project

GOSHEN — Elkhart County Redevelopment Commission members have once again answered a call for aid from the county in connection with needed roadwork along C.R. 6 near Elkhart.

During their regular monthly meeting Thursday, commission members agreed to fund a $125,000 paving project involving an approximately one mile stretch of roadway along C.R. 6 as it enters the city of Elkhart that the county does not currently have enough funding to cover on its own.

According to Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder, the need for the funding assistance is actually connected to a long-standing agreement with the city of Elkhart that this year unexpectedly fell through.

“Typically, when we do projects like this, where the county and the city interact, there’s a level of cooperation that happens between city and county officials and staff that oftentimes elected officials are not aware of, and I’m sure the general public is not aware of,” Yoder said. “This year, (County Highway Manager) Jeff Taylor went to the city highway engineer and said, ‘By the way, we’re going to do C.R. 6, and you’ve got this little section in there and you’ll want to put that in your paving program’. And for the first time, they said ‘Whoops, we can’t do that this year.’ So it ended up that the county was going to have this stretch of road that was unpaved. Well, that’s stupid in everybody’s eyes, so the county was going to just foot the bill and do it.”

Thursday’s request was not the first time the county has sought the commission’s assistance in paving parts of C.R. 6.

During their May 23 meeting, commission members recommended using $770,000 from the Northeast TIF District to pave Pierina Drive east of C.R. 9, C.R. 6 between C.R. 17 and C.R. 113 and an additional section of C.R. 6 between C.R. 11 and Northland Drive.

“It was actually my idea to go back and ask the Redevelopment Commission if they just want to help finish that project, since you’re funding the other parts of it,” Yoder said. “You obviously have the opportunity to say no, and if you do, what we would do is we will not pave a mile or something of road somewhere else, and we’ll move that money here.”

In closing his presentation, Yoder reiterated the fact that the request was not being made lightly, and stems from a situation that could not have been anticipated.

“Generally this would have gone through, and the city would have done their portion, and it would not have been a problem, and nobody would have known the difference,” Yoder said. “So it’s just one of those situations where everybody — cities, towns, counties — are a little bit short on highway money this year, and we got caught unexpectedly.

“Taxpayers expect us to do a good job with the tax dollars,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter to the tax payer whether they’re paying it to the city or the county or the township. They expect us to do a good job, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not going to leave that section of road unpaved.”

The commission agreed, and a motion was unanimously approved to provide the county with the requested assistance.

Northwest Gateway Update

The commission Thursday also received a report from Kenneth Jones of Jones Petrie Rafinski (JPR) on the status of improvement and marketing plans for the ongoing Northwest Gateway design project.

The project in question has been in the works since approximately 2010 and involves numerous aesthetic, as well as functional, improvements to the entryway bounded by C.R. 6 to the north, Old U.S. 33 to south, Ash Road to the west and the city limits of Elkhart to the east.

JPR — then Wightman Petrie — was chosen by the RDC in 2010 to conduct the actual design project.

Through the project, commission members said they hoped to create some semblance of order in an area that now includes a jumbled mix of commercial, residential and industrial development. Goals for the project include improving performance of the roadways and intersections, making the surrounding neighborhood a safer and more accessible area for cyclists and pedestrians, and improving on the overall aesthetics and connectivity of the gateway.

With plans for the Northwest Gateway project now largely complete, Jones and his team have spent the past couple of months looking at ways the RDC can market the gateway to the public.

Options currently under consideration for the marketing plan include developing a specific logo or brand for the corridor that could be used on signs and business marques, purchasing product identification signage that could be placed at strategic points throughout the corridor in order to generate additional interest in the project, establishment of a Northwest Gateway-specific Facebook page as well as the possible establishment of a dedicated Northwest Gateway web page, mini films, email blast programs and sharable PowerPoint presentations.

Branding Concepts

During his update Thursday, Jones said he is currently working with Scott Franko of U.S. Sign Crafters and Laura Coyne, redevelopment coordinator for Elkhart County, to develop branding graphics for the corridor. Once selected, the revised graphics will be uploaded to an online survey website where RDC members will be able to provide input and vote on their favorites.

Landscape and Lighting

Jones also informed the commission that he has been in contact with representatives of both the BP station at Ash Road and Old U.S. 20 and Murphy Oil to present them with the landscape and lighting upfit concept that would be installed within an Access and Landscape Enhancement Easement on their property adjacent to the public right-of-way. Such an easement, which is currently in draft form, would allow the county and its contractors to access the property to install the proposed landscape, irrigation and lighting improvements, Jones said.

Jones noted that BP property owner Dave Osborn has said he would like to participate in the proposed upfit that would include both landscape and lighting improvements. Osborn also indicated he’d be willing to allow the proposed district entry sign at the intersection of Ash Road and Old U.S. 20 to be placed on the BP property.

As for Murphy Oil, Jones said it appears the company is currently only interested in the upfit to the landscaping portion, though there are negotiations underway that may lead to a compromise on the lighting issue.

Implementation Workbook

Jones concluded his update by noting that the implementation workbook for the Northwest Gateway project is now 80 percent complete, with only the utility and capital projects sections left unfinished. He noted that the workbook, once completed, will be back referenced to prior work on the gateway corridor and will present implementation steps in clear and concise language.

 

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