Funds approved for Roanoke to I-469 upgrade

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Legislators and community leaders from northeast Indiana announced Wednesday morning a plan to widen and improve Lafayette Center Road from U.S. 24 in Roanoke to I-469.  They highlighted the project in what they called legislative victories for northeast Indiana.

The Indiana General Assembly approved $30 million for the road expansion March 13.  It will be funded by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).

The 3.7 mile stretch of Lafayette Center Road is currently a two-lane county road with a railroad crossing.  Leaders say the project will rebuild the road from the ground up.  Crews plan to widen the stretch of road, creating a lane going either direction, a left turn lane in the center, wider shoulders, and a bridge over the railroad crossing.

Leaders with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership say the road expansion has been a top priority since 2009.  They expect it to boost the area economy by improving transportation to and from manufacturing sites like the GM and Vera Bradley plants.

“Some of the highest concentration of manufacturing in the United States is here in northeast Indiana.  If you can’t get those goods to market because you’re constrained waiting for a railroad crossing, you lose competitive time,” said John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.  “Speed to market, that’s what this road means.  3.7 miles of county road that has statewide implications.”

A press conference on Wednesday announcing the Lafayette Center Road extension plan.
A press conference on Wednesday announcing the Lafayette Center Road extension plan.

During the Wednesday morning news conference at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Senate President Pro Tempore David Long attributed the legislative victory to unified efforts between area lawmakers along with business and government leaders.

But Kathy Kuhn said the project isn’t a win for her.  Huntington County leaders say the state has to buy out properties and houses for the road expansion.  Kuhn lives on Lafayette Center Road and expects to lose most of her front yard.

Despite the economic impacts and wider shoulders on the road, Kuhn and others who live along Lafayette Center said those benefits don’t outweigh the personal impact on their lives.

“They’re taking property, they’re taking land, they’re making the traffic go even faster, more traffic on it, so how could you be pleased with something like that,” Kuhn said.

Plans to widen that stretch of road have been in the works since the GM plant was built in southwest Allen County in the 1980′s.

Huntington County leaders said construction for the project could start as early as 2016 and wrap up as early as 2018.  INDOT will be in charge of the project.  Allen and Huntington Counties will maintain the road once it is finished.

Wednesday morning, lawmakers also highlighted secured funding for the Allen County Memorial Coliseum, and a public vote to possibly move from three Allen County Commissioners down to one.

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