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Street plan costs worry W. Lafayette

– West Lafayette officials are worried about additional expenses the city will incur when it has to assume from the state the responsibility for maintaining several streets near the Purdue University campus.

That handover, which was agreed to in 1997, is expected to take place this fall when the Indiana Department of Transportation opens up the new U.S. 231 bypass around West Lafayette, the Journal & Courier reported.

The city will then be responsible for maintenance and snow removal on the streets that now carry five state highway routes through and around Purdue’s campus.

Mayor John Dennis said he hopes the state highway department helps defray the city’s added costs, such as it did last year when it gave neighboring Lafayette trucks, plows and salt spreaders, as well as millions of dollars that went toward the completion of projects some former state highways that city took over.

Dennis said he didn’t believe the highway department would just walk away from the former state routes, leaving West Lafayette in a bind.

“I cannot believe that the state would be so naive to let that go away,” Dennis said. “It’s because of that good faith that we’re continuing with the negotiations to make sure the roads that West Lafayette will be taking over will be suitable and be able to basically carry the necessary transportation for the development for our community.”

The streets that West Lafayette are to take over have 22 traffic signals that the city will be responsible for maintaining, in addition to the eight it currently maintains.

Alan Plunkett, the deputy commissioner for the state highway agency’s Crawfordsville District, said talks with city officials were continuing.

“The agreement is in place that says once (U.S.) 231 is built, you take it over,” Plunkett said. “We’re looking at some things. I have been working with the mayor.”

Dennis said he believes that work on a new agreement has been delayed because of changes in leadership of the state highway department since Gov. Mike Pence took office in January.

“We’re trying to figure out the new pecking order and trying to figure out who we need to have conversations with,” Dennis said. “There are things they’re concerned about, and there are things that we’re concerned about, too.”

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