La PORTE – Thanks to what the county planner described as a "unique grant opportunity," safety improvements may soon be coming to a railroad crossing near Hudson Lake.

During its meeting Wednesday, the La Porte County Board of Commissioners signed off on a memorandum of understanding between the county, the Indiana Department of Transportation, and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District for a railroad crossing improvement project at John Emery Road, located near CR-700N in New Carlisle. 

The board also granted permission for La Porte County Planner Mitchell Bishop to approach the County Council for seed money for the project, which INDOT is expected to reimburse in full – and then some, Bishop told the commissioners. 

Through the deal, NICTD will receive new safety infrastructure, such as gates and lights. The current crossing lacks safety barriers, a problem compounded by the fact the South Shore Line runs rather quietly along that stretch of tracks, Bishop said.

At the same time, the county will realign the portion of John Emery Road where the crossing is present. The road currently skews in a slight, 30-degree angle at the crossing, which hurts line of sight for motorists driving onto and off CR-700N, Bishop said.

The MOU between the parties calls on INDOT to reimburse not only the entire cost of construction, but to chip in a little extra to pay for the project's administrative costs, Bishop said. Though he didn't have exact figures handy, Bishop estimates the repayment grant will total $600,000 to $700,000, he said.

"It's a real good deal for the county," he said. 

All three commissioners praised Bishop for his efforts to secure the three-way deal.

"I've told you this before, but I want to repeat it again – you are always grant hungry," joked Board President Vidya Kora. "We appreciate that."

Bishop will need to approach the council to acquire initial funding.

Also on Wednesday:

• La Porte County Parks Superintendent Jeremy Sobecki reported that the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte has given the department a $77,000 grant to install exercise stations at each of its four parks, and place water refill and bike repair stations at Luhr, Red Mill and Bluhm parks.

• The board approved a service agreement between the La Porte County Recorder's Office and for electronic payment processing.

• The board voted 2-1 to appoint John Coulter Sr. to the Kankakee River Basin and Yellow River Basin Development Commission. Coulter had served on the previous incarnation of the commission before the state renamed and slimmed it down earlier this year. Commissioner Richard Mrozinski voted against the appointment, saying he thought Surveyor Anthony Hendricks, another previous commission member, was more qualified.

• La Porte County Highway Department Supt. Bob Young reported that Reith Riley officials recently informed his department that the paving company accidentally used the wrong grade liquid asphalt mix for a repaving project on Joliet Road. The department took several samples of the pavement for testing. Though one part of the test came back as being up to specs, Young said he would wait for the total results to come in before approaching Reith Riley for any compensation.

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