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City to pursue overpass funding

by MACKENZI KLEMANN - mklemann@wabashplaindealer.com

The proposed East Street railroad crossing bridge is back on Mayor Scott Long’s agenda for August.

The mayor is busy completing an application for the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Local Trax grant program, which could fund up to 80 percent of the project’s anticipated $10.7 million cost. The application is due by Aug. 31.

This will be the second time Long has applied for grant funding to pursue the East Street project. Last fall, the Wabash City Council agreed to commit 20 percent of the project’s cost, or about $2.14 million, toward the bridge while the City was applying for a separate round INDOT funding. That application was rejected in March.

Long is applying again in the hopes that he can have the bridge constructed within the next decade.

Engineers with American Structurepointe recommended the East Street location as an alternative to constructing an underpass at the Wabash or Cass Street railroad crossings.

“We have too many historical structures and vital government buildings between those two crossings,” Long said on Thursday. “We would have to go underground on either of those, and parallel streets to the railroad would have to be shut down. They would just dead-end at whichever crossing you picked. It wasn’t feasible.”

While defending the location after the proposal was unvield last November, Long told the Plain Dealer that he considers the route an emergency detour for when trains break down and block all the available crossings in town. He cited safety concerns for emergency vehicles trying to travel through the City Park underpass.

If grant funding is approved, Long says the project would be handled by INDOT and its contractors. That means a timeline for construction is not currently known.

Long plans to ask the council for its blessing on Monday before submitting the grant application to INDOT later this month.