COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - St. Joseph County Road Commission Engineer Garrett Myland discusses a road widening project for Lutz Road, slated to begin this coming winter with tree removal. The $1.15 million project involves Lutz Road being widened to 30 feet from its current 24 feet between M-86 and Fairchild Road, with new three-foot gravel shoulders and new guardrails.

Road Commission previews Lutz Road widening project

Project to take place in stages, begin in 2023

CENTREVILLE — Part of a major local thoroughfare in St. Joseph County will be getting a facelift next year, with plans to do more in future years.

During a public hearing Wednesday, the St. Joseph County Road Commission laid out its plans for a road widening project on Lutz Road from M-86 to Fairchild Road, which is slated to begin in 2023.

The project is expected to widen the existing road by three feet on each side to bring its surface to 30 feet wide, trenching six feet from each side of the existing road edge, milling the existing road, and placing three feet of gravel shoulders on each side. In addition, there would be installation of new guardrails and replacement of existing ones, as well as milling a bridge deck and repaving it.

To accommodate the project, Road Commission Engineer Garrett Myland said, there would be excavation of slopes and tree and stump removal as part of the project.

“There’s going to be some slopes that need to be adjusted, so we’re going to be doing some excavation. There’s going to be some tree and stump removal as well, especially in those excavation areas and trees that are relatively close to the road,” Myland said.

“Essentially, what we’re going to be doing is we’re going to be shaving back the hills to the right of way,” Myland continued later. “In these sections, there’s slope either way, so I’m not too worried about any water really sitting in these areas; it’ll travel really well between the shoulder and the edge.”

The $1.15 million project will be paid for by $375,000 in small urban grant funding, $364,500 in safety grant funding and $410,500 from the road commission.

As far as a timeline for the project, Myland said the first part would happen in two phases. Tree removal would occur in winter before April 1, 2023 because of the migration and roosting of the endangered Indiana Bat and Northern Long-Eared Bat. Following that, the project will open back up with the contractor closing the project down to begin work soon after.

However, while the section of Lutz Road would be closed to through traffic, local traffic on Lutz Road and business traffic will have access to the road while the project is going on. The widening project is expected to be completed by October 2023.

“The road’s still going to be there and traversable, we’re just milling off the surface. There’ll be huge holes on the side,” Myland said. “There might be intermittent closures, I’d imagine, when we have to do embankment fills. They’re going to have machinery crossing the entire road. But most likely, it’d be intermittent.”

Myland said the project is happening because Lutz Road is “under-designed” for the traffic volume it receives per day. Currently, Lutz Road is 24 feet wide and handles 4,330 vehicles per day, 10.3 percent of which is commercial traffic. Myland compared the road to a similarly-important road in the county, Shimmel Road, which has a 30-foot surface and handles slightly less vehicles per day – 4,045, around 15 percent of which is commercial traffic.

“Essentially, what we’re going to try to do is make Lutz Road similar to Shimmel by starting out this project,” Myland said.

In addition, Myland mentioned design guidelines from the state for certain roads. If vehicle traffic is over 2,000 vehicles a day, it is supposed to have six feet of shoulder at minimum with three-foot paved shoulders required, with lane widths at 12 feet.

Following this first part of the widening project, Myland said there are future plans beginning in 2024 to widen more sections of the road. He said the road commission is currently attempting to get a grant to get financial assistance to widen the next mile of Lutz Road from Fairchild Road to Roys Road, and if they don’t receive the grant, they will have federal money to use in 2026 that would be able to complete the widening all the way to Featherstone Road.

“My hope is we’re able to get some grant money and in 2024, we’ll be able to do the next mile and then we can, in 2026, do a little over two miles to get it down to Featherstone Road,” Myland said. “If the grant falls through, we’ll just have to spend a little more money out of our own pocket.”

Long-term, Myland said, he hopes to finish widening Lutz Road from Featherstone all the way to U.S. 12, the road’s terminus. However, he said it wouldn’t happen right away after the project to widen the road down to Featherstone.

In terms of impacts of the project, Myland said the guardrail replacement, end section replacement, removal of slopes and tree removal would be some of the major impacts of the project. He added there isn’t expected to be any impact to the wetlands along the road.

Those in attendance had some concerns about the project, mainly with tree removal and the excavation portions. Andy Goldberger, president of Sauganash’s board, asked if any of the sand traps on the golf course, located right near the project on Lutz Road, would be impacted, but Myland said those wouldn’t be an issue. In terms of some of the trees along the course’s boundary with Lutz Road, however, Myland said there would have to be some that will come down in order to widen the road.

“It’s something we’ll have to look at, but there’s no way to get the road in there with those slopes the way they are. It just cuts way too far in,” Myland said. “We’re trying to impact as least as possible within the 33 feet [right-of-way], but through those areas they’d have to all come down.”

Road Commission Manager John Lindsey said this project has been in the agency’s purview for the last four or five years and that the time is right to do so.

“As we’re going through phases of Lutz Road, of resurfacing it, this is the time to widen it,” Lindsey said. “We don’t want to go through and resurface the whole thing and then going, ‘we should’ve widened it.’”

In other business…

  • The board approved a bid for work on a Shimmel Road culvert for $98,500.
  • The board approved Myland to complete an application for funds from the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill to potentially receive funding to work on the Farrand Road bridge and Constantine Road bridge.
  • The board approved the purchase of survey equipment for $68,797.59.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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