The long awaited grade separation project at Calumet Avenue and 45th Street in Munster, Indiana, has made some major progress in the last several months. Phase 1 plans, considered to be the first major milestone of the project, have been submitted to the Indiana Department of Transportation for their review. This is the largest Local Public Agency project in the State of Indiana, and as a result, the Town has been working closely with INDOT to secure construction funding for this project. Robinson’s Senior Project Manager and lead engineer on the project, Joe Nordman said Phase 1 will be ready for bid in the spring of 2015. “There’s a flurry of things going on right now,” he said at a recent Munster Town Council meeting. The remaining phases are in various stages of planning and design with a project completion schedule extending out five to six years.
This intersection is arguably the most congested train-impacted intersection in Northwest Indiana. “During morning and evening rush hour, this intersection is normally busy, but add a train with the typical 100-plus freight cars, and heavy traffic becomes gridlocked any time of day,” Munster Town Manager Tom DeGiulio said.
The grade separation project will include the realignment of 45th Street from Southwood on the east, curving south and west, under the railroad and intersecting Calumet Avenue where West 45th Street is currently located. The second phase of the project consists of a railroad overpass which will allow vehicles on Calumet Avenue to travel in both directions without train interruption.
DeGiulio stressed the underpass/overpass concept “is a bi-state project, not a Munster street project” because it will benefit the entire region. “It’s of great importance to the Illiana region.”
Nordman has also recently met with key representatives of Canadian National Railroad who will be involved in the railroad portion of this project. “We approached them about looking at different options for the bypass (called a shoo-fly) that could help reduce costs of the overall project. We want to avoid spending money that is only good for temporary improvements that would have to be torn out as the project is completed,” Nordman said. “A full-blown shoo-fly is $6-8 million and we would need one for each project (45th and Calumet Avenue). Being able to reduce this cost will help pay for the overall costs of the two separations.” The cost projection for each phase of the project including a bypass for each is estimated at $20-$25 million.
“If we can reduce that to $17-18 million by saving on the shoo-fly design and cost that will be our goal,” DeGiulio said. “As INDOT and the engineers work through design-and-build concepts, we will look at value engineering concepts.”