Seymour has been awarded $4 million in federal infrastructure improvement funds from the state to build a new road extending Burkart Boulevard south of U.S. 50.
The project includes construction of a railroad overpass to give motorists a route for getting around trains traveling on the Louisville and Indianapolis rail line which runs through the city, bisecting it into east and west halves.
Of the nearly $80 million awarded Monday by the Indiana Department of Transportation, Seymour received the highest single amount. A total of 64 cities, towns and counties that received funding.
Mayor Craig Luedeman said he was happy the city will be able to move forward with the first phase of the Burkart South project which will take the road from U.S. 50 on the east side of the city south through farm fields to South O’Brien Street near Silgan Plastics.
The overpass will cross the rail line southeast of Silgan and just north of East County Road 340N.
“It’s great and really kicks this project off,” Luedeman said. “This money allows us to get into the federal system and get an overpass built for a much needed rail crossing.”
Nathan Frey, the city’s engineer, said he agreed.
“This is a huge step toward making the new route a reality,” Frey said.
The $4 million is enough to cover 40 percent of construction for Phase I, which will cost a total of $12.6 million, but Luedeman said he believes the city’s redevelopment commission will be able to fund the rest through tax increment financing, or TIF funds.
Frey said the city applied for $8.3 million from the state.
“But we knew we wouldn’t get that much,” Luedeman said. “So we’ll have to come up with about $8.6 million on our own.”
That money will not come from raising local taxes, however, he added.
“We’ll look for other grant sources through other agencies and may have to do a bond through the redevelopment commission,” he said.
It’s possible the railroad companies may help by providing some funding for the overpass, Frey said. Additional state funding may be made available in the future, too, he added.
The city already has the design work completed for the first phase of the Burkart South project. The next step is property acquisition where the city will purchase the 22 acres of property needed to build the road.
Construction won’t begin for another four years until after the project goes out for bids in July 2020. It will take two years to build Phase I, Frey said.
“It’s a complex project, and there are a lot of things that have to happen before construction begins,” Luedeman said.
The new road will have two 12-foot lanes with 10-foot paved shoulders, like the newest section of Burkart Boulevard, connecting State Road 11 to North O’Brien Street on the city’s north side.
The second phase of the south extension project will take Burkart toward South Walnut Street, connecting it to Freeman Field, and Phase III will take it through Freeman Field toward South Airport Road which will then reconnect with U.S. 50 on the west side of the city.
Along with the new road, the overall project also includes a 12-foot-wide walking and biking trail along the route.
Once all phases are completed, motorists, especially semi traffic, will be able to “bypass” Seymour from the intersection of U.S. 50 and Airport Road all the way to the intersection of Burkart Boulevard and U.S. 50, Frey said.
The exact route of the new road will be determined through a Route Alternatives Analysis and environmental study. Results will be made public at a hearing sometime in the spring of 2017, Frey said.
The Burkart South project, along with ongoing work to install a sewer line in that area, are vital for the city to grow, Luedeman said.
The overpass will help with traffic and will benefit emergency services with getting ambulances to Schneck Medical Center and will help industries in Freeman Field that travel U.S. 50 to get to Interstate 65. The new road along with the planned pedestrian trails will help tie the community together, he added.
Frey said the project supports economic development, creates a corridor for growth and improves quality of life, making it important for everyone in the city.
All of the projects receiving federal aid through INDOT involve road construction and replacing bridges in rural areas, making small communities more pedestrian friendly with sidewalks and trails and increasing safety by replacing signs, improving intersections and installing guardrails.
Jennings County received $2.03 million to replace Bridge 76 and $1.16 million for rehabilitation of O&M Avenue and Brownstown Road; North Vernon received $1.75 million for reconstruction work of U.S. 50 or Buckeye Street to improve drainage; Scott County received $201,465 for sign replacement; and Salem received $1.19 million for sidewalks.
In announcing the funding, Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb said improving and maintaining infrastructure is vital for the state’s economy and for attracting people to want to live and work in Indiana.
“Modern roads and bridges keep commerce moving at the speed of the 21st-century economy and sidewalks and trails help create the sense of place that sparks vibrant communities which attract businesses and talent to the Hoosier state,” he said. “Over the last decade Indiana has demonstrated a commitment to investing in infrastructure that is nearly unmatched.”
To receive the funding, communities had to provide 20 percent matching local funds, bringing the total amount being invested to almost $135 million.
Communities had to apply for the special funding during a call for projects last March.
Luedeman said the Burkart South project predates him and was part of the city’s master plan.
“But in the last two or three years, we have been really pushing to get it started,” he said.