(La Porte, IN) - Plans are moving forward on building a two-lane railroad overpass to improve motor vehicle travel safety and traffic flow to and from downtown LaPorte.
Property acquisition is scheduled to begin once all the engineering and other preliminary work finishes on the proposed Tipton Street overpass. The project financed primarily with a $6.5 million state grant is set to go out for bids in April of 2023, said Greg Wendling, project manager for Indianapolis-based engineering firm Butler, Fairman, and Seufert. La Porte City Engineer Nick Minich said the overpass would run above the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks from the north side of State Street to the south side of Furnace Street.
The 130-foot long bridge with several hundred feet of approaches on both sides will put an end to travelers on Tipton Street waiting for freight trains to pass on the busy Norfolk Southern rail line. Minich said that would make traveling to and from downtown more convenient on a corridor that essentially runs from U.S 20 across Lincolnway to Indiana 4.
“We’re trying to create a better connecting transportation network,” he said.
Plans also call for Washington Street and Clear Lake Boulevard realignment to further help traffic flow and provide better access to NewPorte Landing, where 200 resort-type apartments are being constructed.
Minich said safer travel is another reason for the overpass. The seven crossings along the rail line in the city will be reduced to four, giving fewer railroad approaches for potential accidents. In addition, crossings at Detroit Street and Pulaski Street will be closed. Minich said travelers at those locations could use the overpass to venture over the tracks, he said.
According to project consultants, land acquisition within the project's footprint is required, and fair market value will be made to impacted property owners. Spectrum Recycling, for example, will have to be moved. Minich said the building would be in the way of a grass-covered dirt embankment sloping down from one side of the overpass. Semi-trucks hauling material will also not be able to reach the scale because of turns into the scrap yard becoming too narrow.
Minich emphasized that the span in a primarily residential area will not be close in size to a typical four-lane overpass. Instead, the prospected span will be just high enough to clear the trains passing underneath.
“We’re looking at a fairly simple overpass,” Minich said.
He said the city would contribute about $1 million toward the cost of the work.