Members of the city council on Monday heard from students in a senior engineering class at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, a group to whom the city's Redevelopment Commission is looking for help in cutting costs associated with the first phase of a major Main Street resurfacing project.
The RDC has tried unsuccessfully in the past to secure funding for a larger, more extensive Main Street project, so city engineer John Sprague in 2015 divided it into three phases.
Phase I would give Main Street from 22nd Street out to the old Kmart property a substantial facelift.
So Sprague, having been contacted by members of the Rose-Hulman class who needed a senior design project, figured they could help shave off some of the costs associated with the design.
“I thought they could get us out ahead of the curve,” Sprague said Monday, “knowing we were headed down that path anyway.”
The four students — Derek Lam, David Reamer, Dean Thomas and Brad Roston — began work on the design eight months ago and have focused, primarily, on pedestrian safety and widening the corridor to vehicles.
The project looks to add a left-hand turn lane onto Kimmell Road (given expected retail development there) and it looks to improve storm-water drainage in the area of Main Street between Mantle Ditch and the U.S. 41 overpass that is prone to flooding.
There would be two, 12-foot driving lanes with additional sidewalks and bike lanes as well.
The design also calls for a total reconstruction of the bridge over Mantle Ditch to allow for better pedestrian and bicycle access, and retaining walls would be constructed underneath the U.S 41 overpass to allow for bike lanes and sidewalks to be built on the outside, away from the street itself.
In addition to all that, the design calls for better lighting and beautification efforts such as flower boxes, recycled-material benches, and even a little play area and gazebo to be built on an unused city-owned triangle-shaped section near Mantle Ditch.
The students showed a 90-second video — a moving, aerial rendering of sorts — and city officials said they were pleased with what they saw.
“That was neat, really neat,” said city council president Scott Brown. “And it seemed to address some of the concerns we've had, what with the overpass, the flooding and the lane widths.
RDC president Brad Dale, too, was “impressed” with the students' presentation.
“They went above and beyond,” he said. “It seems to be an excellent design, and I think that's about what we had in mind.
“We might have to get them to do more work for the city,” he said with a chuckle.
And Sprague, himself, said he was thrilled with the students' work.
Now, he said, his task will be in taking the numbers associated with the design — the more complicated, difficult-to-understand part of the project — and see what holes will need to be filled in so the city can move forward.
“But the rendering they did was just amazing,” Sprague said.
While the RDC hasn't set a specific schedule for the completion of Phase I, the clock is certainly ticking.
The city learned last October that it would receive a $2.19 million state grant to help pay for Phase II — to resurface and widen Main Street from the old Kmart property out to Sievers Road. The project will also straighten-out Main Street's intersection with Felt King Road.
Phase II is set to get underway in August of 2020, so RDC members have four years to finish Phase I.
Phase II is expected to cost the most at nearly $4 million, largely because of the intricate nature of straightening out Main Street's intersection with Felt King Road.
But Sprague said even though the grant announcement last fall was for $2.19 million, INDOT will kick in more money for design, right-of-way acquisition and utility work along the way.
The grant will essentially cover 80 percent of the total project; the RDC will pay the other 20 percent.