Bloomington may be looking at “The Big Dig 2” after Third Street closure, city annexation plan goes through some changes and could the convention center be a private development.
On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Hren: Just last week a major downtown roadway, Third street, was closed after being found the tunnel underneath the street was unsafe. What happened and what does this say about the entire infrastructure?
Hamilton: Third and Lincoln happens to sit over the major conduit that runs storm water underneath downtown. It takes Jordan River from the IU campus under the city and comes out at Walnut and First Street. Either end of that have been repaired 15 years ago or more. But the middle hasn’t been, so they sent a person in to do a formal inspection. Twenty years ago was the last formal inspection, and at that time the inspector said it’s ok, but it should be fixed within five years.
Hren: So what happens now?
Hamilton: They scrape the asphalt off the roof of the conduit and build a little bridge over the tunnel and that should work for several years. In the meantime, we’re going to have to do the planning to do the repair and fix that middle section. So if you remember The Big Dig from the early 2000’s, we’re going to do Big Dig 2.0 I think in the coming years.
We plan to open two lanes by Friday is the goal. There will sections north and south on Lincoln that we’ll have to work on.
Hren: I wanted to get an update on the city annexation plan. One area was dropped, three others were combined – any more changes coming?
Hamilton: We’ve had a number of public forums, we’re really about half way through the public period through which this review is to take place. The decision right now through the end of June is what do we want the boundaries to be. I proposed a number of boundaries, but absolutely they have changed and I’d be surprised if they didn’t change some more.
The city council voted a few weeks back to stick to the basic timeline. All that gets decided between now and the end of June is what should the boundaries be. Once we set those, we have two and a half years to work together. The fire department, police, street department, the parks which is plenty of time to do what the public wants which is give us good efficient government services.
Hren: The Monroe County Convention Center talk is heating up and I believe what’s moving it forward is the new parking garage that’s right outside City Hall here – that facility is holding all the vehicles that used to park at the convention center for county employees. What are the concerns of a private developer – if this is lucrative, why aren’t hotel partners coming forward, or are they?
Hamilton: Well there are hotel partners interested, one of the decisions we have to make as a community is do we want a privately owned convention center versus a hotel, a hotel is very likely to be privately owned, but the convention center has been a public trust – we’ve used it for all kinds of public things, and from my assumption we would continue that public, civic ownership of the convention center.