Hammond plans major road project on Chicago Street

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The city is developing a federal aid project to reconstruct and widen Chicago Street (formerly known as Ind. 312) from South Brainard Avenue at the border with Illinois to the East Chicago border at White Oak Avenue.

The 2.1 mile Chicago Street project is proposed to improve safety, reduce congestion and improve travel times. It includes street alignments and two roundabouts.

“It’s a big undertaking,” City Engineer Stan Dostatni said.

The project will probably go through four separate phases, Dostatni said. Businesses won’t be restricted and the roads will be open to traffic the entire time. The first phase could begin next year with construction possibly ending in 2019.

“We’re still purchasing right of way,” Dostatni said.

About 150 parcels are affected by the project, which is estimated at about $32 million. Dostatni said U.S. Rep Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, was able to secure about $12.5 million of federal money. The state is providing $2.6 million and Dostatni said they’ve been talking with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission and thinks the balance of the project will be funded with federal dollars over the next few years (“not in all one swoop”).

Hammond’s contribution will be $3.8 million.

“I was happy to have worked with Mayor McDermott to secure federal monies for the Chicago Street project,” Visclosky said. “This project will improve the flow of traffic and improve safety for the traveling public. In turn, Hammond will continue to improve its ability to attract new investment dollars.”

The project traverses Chicago Street, Sheffield Avenue and Gostlin Street. The intersection of Sheffield Avenue and Gostlin Street will be shifted to the southwest and become a roundabout. Sheffield Avenue will be slightly realigned and the intersection of Sheffield Avenue and Chicago Street will be realigned to eliminate the 90 degree turn.

The intersection of Hohman Avenue and Chicago Street also will become a roundabout. Each roundabout is designed to handle large truck traffic.

“You can move more traffic through them,” Dostatni said. “Roundabouts help after a train passes because you don’t have a bunch of cars sitting at a signal. They’re safer. Accidents they create are less severe. You’re going to see a lot of them in the near future.”

The road averages about 16,500 vehicles a day and about 16 percent of it is truck traffic.

The project includes new pavement, curb and gutters, sidewalks, storm sewers, roadway lighting and new traffic signals. The realignment of streets such as Gostlin also should reduce numerous accidents near the state line where crash walls are erected. Those walls will be coming down as part of the project.

“We think the whole thing is going to be safer,” Dostatni said.

The project should attract new businesses, he added.

“With their proximity to the South Shore station you might get some nice development in there,” Dostatni said. “This is the ugliest street in Hammond. We think it will be a shot in the arm for that neighborhood. It’s going to be a big improvement.”

A public hearing on the project will be held in early November. A date and time has not yet been set. For more information on the project visit www.gochicagostreet.com.