Overpass, airport focus of city plan

Herald Staff Writer

HUNTINGBURG — A railroad overpass at Styline Drive and development of Huntingburg Airport are at the center of Huntingburg’s new comprehensive plan, the document that steers community development for years to come.

In a presentation to the common council Tuesday evening, principal consultant Tom Kohler of Real Estate Research Consultants, an Orlando, Fla.-based planning company, outlined the city’s main planning objectives, which focus on creating a more cohesive, connected city.

The comprehensive plan was last updated in 2007. The state requires cities to update their plans every five years to be eligible for funding.

In an interview with The Herald on Thursday, Kohler insisted the city “has great bones,” but suffers from urban design issues. He said the solution is to create “a system that connects all parts of the city for both residential and visitor use.”

According to Kohler, a railroad overpass at Styline Drive is the biggest priority for Huntingburg. More than 30 trains pass through the city every day, stopping up traffic between the north and south portions of the city, a “100-year-old issue,” he said.

By creating a seamless viaduct, the city would become more attractive to tourists as well as residents. In addition, the overpass could create a new business district near 14th Street where the north and south would connect. Huntingburg is negotiating a contract with an engineering firm for the construction of the overpass, a process Mayor Denny Spinner said should be done in the next two weeks.

The plan also calls for funding for the airport, which the city hopes to turn into a “regional port authority.” Pouring money into the airport, which Kohler called an “underappreciated asset,” would fuel growth not only for Huntingburg but for the surrounding communities as well.

The plan focuses on continued development of the downtown business district. Currently, the upper floors of the businesses along Fourth Street are underutilized and could be developed into loft apartments, work spaces and galleries.

Spinner said the plan is “not quite complete,” noting the downtown revitalization plan is still in development. On Sept. 3, the city was awarded funding for a grant that would assist it in outlining strategies for the downtown and, according to Spinner, the city will begin work on the plan in the coming weeks.

However intricate, Spinner and Kohler both noted the comprehensive plan is only a stepping stone, serving as a road map for concrete city ordinances and policies. “A plan is only as good as how well it’s implemented,” said the mayor.

“Mayor Spinner and the common council seem to understand this is the game plan,” Kohler said. “Now they have to call the plays”

Contact Sarah Fentem at sfentem@dcherald.com

More on DuboisCountyHerald.com