by Eric Stearley
On Wednesday, Feb. 5, the Indiana Department of Transportation announced that Wabash is among the rural cities, towns and counties to which it is awarding $86 million in federal transportation funds.
This announcement came after Mayor Vanlandingham and Wabash City Street Department Superintendent Scott Richardson made a presentation to the Fort Wayne District of INDOT on Jan. 6 in hopes of acquiring funding for the second phase of the Alber Street Project. On Wednesday, it was released that the City of Wabash would receive 80 percent of the project’s cost from the state, totaling more than $1.6 million.
The Alber Street Project is a $5.6 million expansion of the street on the city’s north side. It will include widening the road to include a parking lane to the east, adding a sidewalk adjacent to the parking lane, and installing new curbs, gutters, and a sewer system.
Recent development has made Alber Street a more attractive way to get through town. On the north end of the street features Miller’s Merry Manor’s two buildings, as well as Wellbrooke of Wabash. Across U.S. 24 is an entrance to the retailers such as Wal-Mart, Dunham’s, Tractor Supply Company, and AT&T, as well as restaurants Bob Evans, Harvey Hinkelmeyers, and The Great Wall. The south end of Wabash Street features access to Wabash High School, as well as the corporation’s bus parking lot, and the nearby Honeywell Pool. The inclusion of a sidewalk in the expansion plans will make the walk to school for Wabash High School students much safer.
In addition to increasing access to these popular destinations, city officials hope that the expansion will help to reduce traffic on Cass Street. Additionally, the Alber Street Project will prepare the area for a new County Hospital in the future.
“We look at that as a future healthcare center,” said Economic Development Group CEO Bill Konyha. “Anything that improves transportation and traffic flow, whether it’s vehicular or pedestrian, can only help as an opportunity to attract healthcare businesses. We’re happy that INDOT has decided to approve that project, because it brings $1.6 million into our local economy.”
The land between Alber Street and Wabash Street just east of Wellbrooke has been purchased by the hospital and plans include an Alber Street entrance in addition to the main entrance on Wabash Street.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Wabash County Hospital President and CEO Marilyn Custer-Mitchell. “It will be beneficial to Wellbrooke, which is already out there, and eventually to the hospital, whenever we do move out there. It’s a great thing for Wabash.”
Broken into two phases, the city received grant money for Phase I of the project in February of 2010. Phase I is the larger of the two phases and includes the area between Cass Street and Euclid Street. Right-of-way planning and land appraisals are in their final stages, and construction on the first phase will start later this year. Phase II, for which the city was just recently granted money, is set to begin in 2017. Phase two includes the area between Euclid Street and U.S. 24. The presence of the INDOT grants for both phases, totaling nearly $4.5 million, means that the City of Wabash will only be responsible for 20 percent of the total project cost.
“As a small community, it’s a big plus for us, having to come up with 20 percent instead of all of it,” said Mayor Vanlandingham.
Though the expansion will cut into the front lawn of homeowners on the street, Mayor Vanlandingham and others feel strongly that it will benefit the community as a whole.
“It will be a change for people,” he said. “Some people will love it and some people probably won’t, but overall, I think it will be great for the community. It’s a project that we’ve talked about for a long time, and I’m just glad to see it continuing.”