Update given on East Street overpass

By Joseph Slacian

Planning for the East Street overpass is roughly 60 percent complete, and officials from the Indiana Department of Transportation, the City of Wabash and the engineering firm WSP are targeting a Fall 2024 target date to complete work.

That was the takeaway Tuesday evening from a public open house that took place in the Eagles Theatre ballroom. About 30 people, mostly from the area affected by the project, attended the hour long gathering.

The overpass would stretch along East Street from Hill to Maple streets.

“The road is currently at the same elevation of the railroad,” George Watson of WSP told those present. “At the end of this project, East Street is going to be roughly 27 feet higher than the railroad. In order to get that amount of clearance, we need to build up a hill. What you’re seeing … is essentially slopes that go back down to existing grade.”

The grassy slopes would be maintained by the city, Mayor Scott Long said during a question and answer period after the presentation.

“This is the shortest project length in order to get an overpass through the railroad, the least number of intersections and the least number of properties and the least number of parcels, or properties affected,” Watson continued. “We hope to provide a corridor through Wabash with uninterrupted north-south traffic anytime a train is stopped. There is an issue with the hospital being on the north side of town.

“If, for example, there is a mile long train that stops in town, there’s just not an alternate route on the east side of town, and the west side of town, the alternate route can get flooded pretty easily. We want to increase safety by doing this project here.”

The project also will improve pedestrian crossing over the railroad with a sidewalk on the east side of the overpass, Watson noted. There also will be a 10-foot chain link fence on the overpass, which is required by the railroad.

The 60 percent of the project that is completed includes the selected site, as well as elevation and a project footprint finalized, he continued. Still to be finalized are lighting issues, final design, structural design, an environmental study, final drainage design and utility issues.

“All that is going on now,” he said of the $11.1 million project.

Federal and state funding will provide $9.2 million, with the remainder coming from city coffers.

“Also, as part of this project, we are proposing some at-grade crossings for closure,” Watson said, noting that those would be the crossings at Spring, Huntington and Thorne streets. “The schedule for this is not yet set. We try not to close things before the bridge is built.”

The additional closures are all part of the goals of the Trax project to make things safer and reduce the number of dangerous at-grade crossings.

Long also said that for safety reasons, a portion of Maple Street between East and Spring streets will be made one-way.

A public hearing is planned for late 2022. Appraisals for right of way acquisition also is expected to be finished late this year, with offers being made in 2023. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2024, with completion later that fall.
During the Q&A session, audience members asked a variety of questions including whether parking will be allowed on East Street (yes, before and after certain points of the overpass), what type of lighting is planned (still to be determined), and more.

Updated renderings are expected to be locate to be located at cityofwabash.com/traxproject.

Posted on 2022 May 05