INDOT awards Huntington $2.58 million grant for Etna Avenue reconstruction

A major reconstruction project on Etna Avenue could begin in 2013, made possible by a $2.58 million grant awarded to the city of Huntington by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Rep. Dan Leonard announced the grant on Wednesday, March 25.

"We've been after that (grant) for a few reasons," says Dave Schoeff, assistant director of the city's engineering office. "We'd like to make it a safer route, with all the traffic."

A separately-funded portion of the project would introduce stormwater drainage to the area, Schoeff says.

The area is now served by old county drainage tiles, many of which are collapsed and in disrepair, Schoeff says. When it rains, water ponds in many properties along Etna Avenue, he says.

"We've had several people want to start or add on to businesses, and they can't because there's nowhere to put stormwater," he says. "This could spur future development."
Improving drainage will also benefit the city's wastewater treatment system, he says.

"The more stormwater we get captured and to the river, the less goes through the system," Schoeff says.

The entire project - road improvements and new storm drainage - will total about $5 million, Schoeff says.

The INDOT grant of $2.58 million can be used only for the road improvements, Schoeff says, and is an 80/20 grant - meaning that the state will pay for 80 percent of the project cost, and the city will pay the remaining 20 percent.

City officials are still working on funding for the drainage part of the project, Schoeff says. He adds that he can't rule out an assessment on property owners who would benefit by the drainage project.

"I can't say for sure," he says. "We haven't really gotten that far."

The roadway improvements will begin roughly at Jessup Street and extend to the Wabash River bridge at Horace Mann Elementary School, Schoeff says.

"We'll have some widening, curbs and gutters and sidewalks on one side," Schoeff says. Which side of the road the sidewalks will go on hasn't yet been decided, he adds.

"We're still in the early stages," he says. "It's going to take us up to four years before we're going to be ready to turn dirt."

The project is expected to take nine months to a year to complete, he says.

At the same time, Schoeff says, the city will be looking for funding to improve Etna Avenue from Jessup Street to London Street - phase two of the project.

Schoeff says the city will schedule meetings with business owners and residents along the affected portion of Etna Avenue to hear their concerns. He knows their main concern will be keeping their businesses accessible to customers.

"Our full intention is to keep the road open enough to get traffic in and out of those businesses," Schoeff says. "We don't want to shut them down."