TERRE HAUTE —
Mayor Duke Bennett gave an upbeat report to local business leaders Monday in his annual address to the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
Bennett said 2013 was a little disappointing in terms of new business openings – there were just 28 ribbon cuttings – but he expects 2014 to show an improvement as things such as the uncertainty surrounding Obamacare recede.
Bennett, speaking to Chamber members at the Meadows Banquet and Conference Center, also cast an eye to more distant future, stating a long-awaited overpass over the railroad crossing at 19th Street and Margaret Avenue is a virtual certainty. A grand opening for that overpass should take place in three or four years, he said.
Last year, the transportation policy committee of the West Central Indiana Economic Development District approved a railroad study for Terre Haute and Vigo County, including an overpass at 19th and Margaret and a second at 13th Street and Eighth Avenue. The Margaret Avenue overpass was expected to cost $16.5 million, according to that study.
Meanwhile, construction is set to begin this year on Margaret Avenue improvements between Seventh and 14th streets, Bennett said. Also during 2014, engineering designs and property acquisition will also begin for Margaret Avenue improvements from 19th to 25th streets, he said.
Bennett also used his annual address to provide updates on other big projects, such as the cleanup of the former Toney Petroleum site near the Indiana State University campus and the more than $100 million upgrade to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
Final cleanup of the Toney Petroleum site, which is near U.S. 41 on the northwest side of the ISU campus, was delayed by the discovery of an additional underground storage tank, Bennett said. Once the U.S. EPA gives its approval and clean up is complete, the property is expected to become part of the ISU campus, he said.
Meanwhile, the city’s massive upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant on Indiana 63 are about three months ahead of schedule, the mayor said. In a related matter, construction is expected this year for a storage lagoon on former International Paper property near the Wabash River. Improvements have been introduced into the design of that lagoon, Bennett said, allowing the city to operate a “passive park” on property around the lagoon.
The storage lagoon will temporarily hold combined stormwater and wastewater in the event of large rain events.
Bennett also hinted that more investment is coming to the Indiana 46/U.S. 40 economic development zone around the eastside Walmart and Terre Haute International Airport.
A new Meijer store planned for the area will be a “big boon,” Bennett said, sparking new restaurants and other investment, in the area.
The mayor also used his annual address to preview a new “healthy community” initiative. The initiative will include dozens of events and activities in 2014 designed to promote healthy living choices in the city, he said.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.