Glut of Hobart construction projects likely to cause ‘awful’ traffic detours, but Mayor commits to communication – Chicago Tribune

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If traveling through Hobart was bad last year, residents this year should expect it to reach stygian-nightmare levels until fall at the earliest.

No one in their right mind would’ve ever lined up the city’s seven road projects all in one season, Mayor Josh Huddlestun told a crowd of at least 60 residents at the Community Center Wednesday evening. One of the projects — 61st Avenue and Marcella Boulevard — was in fact pushed back a year to this summer, but then the state had funding issues and had to reconfigure some of its projects.

Nevertheless, the city doesn’t have a say in when the Lake County and the state do their road projects; if it did, Hobart would lose up to $15.5 million, or close to its entire budget for the year, he said.

“This is an inconvenience, and a lot of you are going to see places you didn’t know existed (in the city),” Huddlestun said. “We have a couple options: Lose a lot of money or strap our boots up, take it on the chin for a few months, and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“But we’re going to overcommunicate and make sure you’re getting the most up-to-date information from us.”

One of the projects, the Colorado Tracks project between 61st and 69th Avenue over the CN railroad tracks, started Feb. 26, according to a city release this week. Its anticipated completion is June, and the detour for it is 61st to Broadway in Merrillville until Indiana 51 is complete, Huddlestun said.

The S.R. 51/Deep River bridge project, which will fully replace the bridge, is expected to start March 11 and be finished in June, he said. Then the S.R. 51/Cleveland/Route 130 roundabout will start April 1 and should be finished in October, with rotating closures throughout, he said.

One of the city’s local projects, LaSalle Street, will be a full closure that starts in the spring and should be finished by summer, Huddlestun said, while the Marcella/61st roundabout should start in May and finish in October, also with rotating closures.

The Arizona Street Bridge Project, meanwhile, should start in August and run through October with a full closure, he said. The longest project, however, is the Wisconsin Street bridge; it’s slated to start in August or September and take a full year to complete.

Because the detours will likely take people through residential areas, Hobart Police will be increasing their patrols, Police Chief Garrett Ciszewski said. The department will install new speed signs and use a new speed trailer to deter scofflaws, he said.

The Hobart Fire Department, on the other hand, has reached out and secured commitments with its mutual aid partners to help cover fires and other emergencies, Chief Enrique Lopez told the crowd. Because of the closures on 61st, hospital transports to Methodist Hospital Southlake and the new Franciscan St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point will be considered before St. Mary Medical Center, however, he said.

As for the students who attend Merrillville schools, Huddlestun said he’s spoken with its transportation director, and they indicated they “have no concerns” over the closures.

Residents were annoyed but polite, suggesting that traffic signal times be adjusted at Lake Park, and Wisconsin and Ridge Road and asking why there will be a bridge over 61st. The bridge will be helpful for emergency vehicles to get past the trains, Huddlestun said.

Huddlestun couldn’t apologize enough for the mess.

“I don’t want people speeding down my neighborhood, either,” he said. “There’s no way around any of this. It’s going to be awful, but we’re going to pivot and overcommunicate.

“This starts with me and ends with me.”

Residents can keep up with the progress, closures, and detours through their sewer bills; by signing up for Hyperreach on the city’s website at cityofhobart.org; at hobartimprovements.com; and the city’s social media page.

Michelle L. Quinn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.



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