WESTFIELD, Ind. — The city of Westfield is committed to a project to transform downtown traffic even as the projected price tag has shot up.
The initial budget for the widening of State Road 32 through downtown Westifled was put together in 2018, at the time, a $15 million price tag was put on the project.
Since then, rising costs have made the project $7 million more expensive.
“That’s certainly something we didn’t expect, didn’t plan for,” said Westfield City Councilman Scott Willis.
But, Willis said the project is essential to the future of Westifled.
State Road 32 would be widened from two lanes to four lanes from just east of Mill Street to just past East Street.
Right now, traffic in morning rush hour and for hours after schools let out are bumper to bumper along that stretch of road.
”It’s nasty to navigate, people don’t want to come in and get caught in that congestion,” said Willis.
Others certainly notice it too. Workers at several businesses we talked to said similar statements. Toby Miles, the Director of Operations at Field Brewery along SR 32, said he actively avoids SR 32 during certain times.
”I’ll sit there for 10, 15 minutes one day just waiting to turn left,” Miles said.
Westfield and INDOT are splitting the cost of the project 50/50. With the new price coming in at $22 million that means each would pay $11 million.
Since SR 32 is a state road, INDOT would usually cover the project. But Westfield leadership wanted a say in the future of its Main St., so they agreed to split the cost of the project.
Willis said the increase is due to the inflation, and the rising costs of oil and real estate.
”The last 3 or 4 years we have seen a major escalation of values of properties here in Westfield, just the land acquisition piece went up $3.5 million from what we budgeted,” Willis said.
The price of building materials, mainly oil, also went up $1.5 million from the original 2018 projection.
Despite the price increase, Willis said the city is still very much committed to the project, calling it a once in a generation project.
”We’ve got one chance to do it right,” Willis said. “Certainly, cost is important to evaluate, we need to be thorough in what were doing there, but I personally want to do it the right way.”
As for how Westfield is going to pay for the extra costs, Willis said they’re looking for different ways.
”We may maneuver some projects that we wanted to do this year that we are going to have to push out to next year,” Willis said.
Businesses and other land along the south side of State Road 32 are the parcels that will have to be aquired for the project. Willis said INDOT is handling that.
Several of the buildings have Westfield staples inside. The building Wolfies is in will be demolished, a manager there said the owners are still looking at their options for where to move to. Longtime Westfield staple Jan’s Village Pizza is losing half of it’s restaurant. Field Brewery, a relatively new spot along SR 32, is going to lose the garden in front of it’s business.
”We knew it would either be completely gone, mostly gone, somewhat gone,” said Miles.
He said the owners intentionally built the brewery back away from the road to make sure when SR 32 expanded their restaurant wouldn’t be in the way.
Miles said traffic in front of their store can be pretty constant and they’re excited for the improvements.
”Really looking forward to being able to get people down here safely, easily and quickly,” said Miles. “Honestly, the city needs it.”
Another addition to SR 32 will be a roundabout at East Street. Miles takes that intersection on his way to work.
”The roundabout, I think, will really really help,” he said. “I’m really surprised, you know knock on wood, there aren’t more accidents there.”
As the project goes forward, Miles hopes the city will have clear communication with businesses about each step.
”When something is concrete, I will start paying attention to it,” he said.
Willis said the plan right now is for bids to go out in the spring of 2023 and construction will start later that year.
INDOT was not available for an interview for this story but did pass along a statement.
“INDOT is committed to keeping the costs split 50/50 on this project. We won’t have a final estimate for cost until late 2022. Even then, costs are not finalized until after construction is finished. The biggest change in cost comes from Right of Way. Real estate costs have been fluctuating and trending higher and the estimate INDOT originally gave in 2017 is lower than real estate costs right now. We will continue to track estimated costs and will have a better estimate for the project by the end of 2022.”