Approximately 50 properties would be either totally or partially taken by INDOT for the project, according to properties highlighted on a preliminary plan map. Many of those are properties that contain homes, and that concerns Cripe.
“The biggest negative with this, in my opinion with the northern connector route, is if you put this in the people whose lives that will be impacted, the worry and stress of those residents,” Cripe explained. “You just don’t know the whole process and how it will work out and all that.
“I try to put myself in other people’s shoes and I imagine I would be extremely worried. Plus, some of these people have sentimental value with their homes. Maybe they grew up there and lived there their whole lives. So that is the part that is not easy. But, no matter what way you go you are going to impact people.”
Cripe said people who would lose their homes would be reimbursed by INDOT, plus be eligible for the agency’s relocation assistance programs.
Two of those people would be Mary and Dale Smith. The Smith’s backyard on 10th Street touches the Norfolk Southern right of way. A walking ramp leads from the driveway to the front porch to make life a little easier for Dale. The Smith’s have lived in the home for about 40 years.
Cautious, and talking through a small opening in her front door Thursday morning, Smith said at her age she does not want to relocate for the project.
“I don’t want to move,” she said. “I am 85 years old and I don’t want to go somewhere else.”
Lou and Marlin Robbins live a few doors south on 10th Street.
“As I understand it, I am going to be moving,” Lou Robbins said. “But who knows when. But it sounds like they have a lot of help in place.”
Marlin attended a meeting in late January where city officials outlined the project. Lou said her husband came away with the impression that the north connector route is being preferred by INDOT officials.
“It is unfortunate,” Robbins said, “but I understand the need for it.”
She, like others in the neighborhood have heard about the plan for several years, but it was always just that, a future plan.
“They are sounding like it is a lot more imminent then it ever was before,” she said.
The Robbins have lived in their home, which was built in 1900, since 1993. Since then they have grown used to the frequent high-speed train traffic behind their home.
“Maybe in the summer, if we have the doors and windows open, you have to turn up the volume on the TV when trains go by,” Robbins said of the impact of trains on the neighborhood. “That’s about all.”
Some businesses will also be removed if the route is built. That concerns Rich Hochstetler, who owns Indiana Paint & Collision at 411 E. Lincoln Ave.
“I am not looking forward to that,” Hochstetler said. “I don’t know of anyplace I would like better than this place... But I am not worried about it.”
What he would really like to know is if the project will go forward and when that will be. He was going to have the business’s parking lot paved this summer, but canceled that after learning about the possible relocation. He also wants to repair the building’s roof and have some work on the exterior bricks done. But none of that may make economic sense if the building will be torn down in a couple of years.
“I would like to know,” he said, “so I can get on with my life.”
His work life consists of fixing vehicles, something he takes great pride in. His tiny showroom is crowded with motorcycles with colorful paint jobs and a Chevelle SS muscle car he customized with a spectacular blue coat of paint.
Standing behind the shop’s counter, Hochstetler said he understands the need to improve traffic flow through the city.
“I would be for anything that helps people get from Mendard’s to Main Street,” he said. “If this could fix that, I would be all for (it).”
But he does worry about other people impacted, including his elderly neighbor who has resisted friendly attempts by others to help her move from her long-time home.
For himself, Hochstetler said he is leaning on his faith in God, assured that he will get him through any future disruption in the business.