Sec. Buttigieg announces grant money coming to Elkhart's rail infrastructure
ELKHART, Ind.-- Railroads used to be the foundation for a community’s economic development. Now, they're considered an impediment, but cities can’t actually do anything about them.
That’s why Wednesday, U.S Secretary of Transportation, and former South Bend Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, officially announced the federal dollars coming to the Elkhart community to help update some rail infrastructure.
“I’m delighted to be here to formally celebrate the Biden administration’s award of federal funding to upgrade this Elkhart railroad line,” he said.
Hundreds of trains roll through Elkhart every day—but the city has no jurisdiction over the railroad—or its many crossings.
“As we build amenities downtown, the train tracks have become an impediment,” Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson said. “We use those crossings, but we can’t upgrade them.”
Buttigieg returned home to Michiana to announce $2.6 million in federal dollars coming to Elkhart.
“We are investing in projects like this one that are going to create an improved traffic flow and improved safety,” he said. “We've got to make sure infrastructure works for people, and that it works for today's economy and today's neighborhoods, which is sometimes different than the way it was built 20 or 50 or 100 years ago."
For one, the Elkhart Train Depot, located at 131 Tyler St., will be moved away from Elkhart's downtown, toward the intersection of CCalifornia Road and State Road 19, also known as Nappanee Road.
“Which is outside of the city,” Roberson said. “And right now, it’s in our river district. And it causes blockages and delays because that particular railroad crossing is right in front of the busiest intersection we have in the city, which is Jackson and Johnson.”
The money will also go toward fixing the intersection of Waterfall Drive and Richmond Street, just in front of the Elkhart High School Freshman Division.
“Probably about 90% of the kids cross that intersection, that crossing,” Roberson said. “And it will change it so that it’s not a wood-studded, a wood-framed crossing, but it becomes a concrete, asphalt crossing, which won’t require quite the maintenance this does.”