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Design options being studied for Ridge Road 'diet'

U.S. Department of Transportation

Ridge Road in Munster is getting a "road diet" in the coming years, but exactly what it'll look like still remains to be seen.

Munster Town Manager Dustin Anderson says the current five-lane road is wider than what the town needs and doesn't fit with residents' desires for the future. "It's a sewer for cars," Anderson told the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission's Ped, Pedal and Paddle Committee on Thursday. "That's not consistent with the small town image that Munster has for itself."

Last year, Munster got a $17.1 million federal RAISE grant to convert Ridge Road into a "complete street." That will include reducing the number of traffic lanes, while also adding a separate path for bikes and pedestrians, as well as landscaping to reduce the amount of rainwater going into the storm drain system.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg says an improved approach to transportation made a noticeable difference when he was mayor of South Bend. "And now in Munster, we're helping to deliver a similar transformation on Ridge Road, an area where there were 600 vehicle crashes, just in a five-year period," Buttigieg said during a visit to Gary on Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has said Ridge Road will be reduced to three lanes, as part of the project. But Anderson said Thursday that the final design isn't complete yet.

"There might be sections where it's going to be four lanes or even five lanes," he added.

Anderson said the closure of Franciscan's Hammond hospital last year has led to an increase in ambulances using Ridge Road from Illinois.

He said turning Ridge Road into a more "human-focused corridor" will complement the new commuter rail station to be built there as part of the West Lake Corridor project. But he said Munster would have likely pursued the complete street project, even without commuter rail.