LIMA — For years, commuters along state Route 309 on Lima’s east side have been forced to deal with potential delays from trains on the Indiana & Ohio rail line just west of Lima Memorial Health System. On Thursday, another step in alleviating this issue was taken with the ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council awarding $3 million for right-of-way acquisitions for the Elm Street rail grade separation.
The idea of creating an underpass on East Elm Street, allowing for unhindered traffic flow along that rail line has long been on the minds of city officials, according to Mayor David Berger.
“It’s certainly been a priority project for a decade and a half,” he said. “So we’ve been anxious to get the next step. We’ve got the engineering completely funded, and now it’s a matter of the right of way, and then following that, we’ll be needing to put in place the balance of funding for the construction, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million to $15 million.”
This money will solely be used for appraisals for property acquisitions along the project’s right-of-way, which Berger estimates to be done within 12 to 18 months.
“We will do that through an ODOT-certified consulting firm,” he said. “It’s not something that the city manages directly. That way, all the rules for property procurement are followed.”
For Public Works director Howard Elstro, the project is sorely needed for a number of reasons.
“There would be reduced delay for both motorists as well as commerce,” he said. “There have been countless calls to our office over the decades by doctors, nurses and patients complaining that they were trying to reach the hospital but had a lengthy train delay. Also, seeing children trying to cross parked trains has always been an impetus for us to continue to search for funds.”
Berger noted that the city will be continuing to apply for funds at the federal and state level to secure the balance needed for construction.
“With the five-year transportation bill that got signed last fall, there should be resources available through the federal government that we should be able to qualify for in this project,” he said.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.