City of Lafayette going to fix downtown flooding problem it helped create

Heavy rain causes major problems for Lafayette businesses near the intersection of 11th and Main Streets. The Main Street Streetscape project that recently wrapped up is causing water to get into buildings.

Posted: Feb. 14, 2019 6:37 PM
Updated: Feb. 14, 2019 6:52 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Heavy rain causes major problems for Lafayette businesses near the intersection of 11th and Main Streets. The Main Street Streetscape project that recently wrapped up is causing water to get into buildings.

"The water has nowhere to go," said One Earth Gallery owner David Kurtz. He said flooding in the intersection has been a problem for years.

"When it rains hard the water jumps that corner and comes up on the sidewalk, then it comes under the door and floods this entire area,” he said, gesturing to the floor of his business.

Lafayette City Engineer Jeromy Grenard said the last time the intersection was modified was when the train tracks were relocated in 1994. The sidewalks were lower than the storefront windows and there were no curb ramps.

Kurtz said there used to be about a six inch step to get into his business, which has been open for more than 30 years.

The Streetscape renovation brought curb ramps to the intersection, and raised the sidewalks to be level with storefront doors in order to make the area compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"There were some accessibility issues at some of the buildings,” said Grenard. “There was a lip so somebody in a wheelchair wouldn't be able to get into those businesses."

But now, the businesses have to prepare themselves every time there is a chance of rain in the forecast. They keep sandbags outside their doors to barricade their buildings against the water. The city said a solution is coming.

"We're going to put in some storm water inlets that they use typically in Florida,” said Grenard. “If you've been down in Florida, you see the really large inlets so that we can capture the majority of that water."

These new inlets will be placed ahead of the intersection with the hope of catching most of the water before it gets near the businesses. The inlets aren’t the only fixes coming.

"What we're also going to do is lower the intersection and relocate the curb ramp,” said Grenard. “Any water that does get past those inlets won't be able to go up on the ramp and run down the sidewalk."

He said there are already drainage wells located under the street that have largely been left unused and they plan to use those for the new inlets. Because that infrastructure is already there, Grenard said it will cut down on costs of the fix. He also said the new inlets will help with other downtown flooding problem areas, like around 7th and Main Street.

Kurtz said he sees some irony in the situation.

"We have an ADA compliant corner but then we can't get anyone in here with a disability over the sandbags," he said.

He said he wishes that the city would have better communication with business owners about what is going to be done. He said he has concrete floors underneath the carpeting of his business, so he’s not worried about water damage, but he is worried about the possibility of mold.

“We’ve seen survey crews out here before but this has been going on for a long time,” he said.

Grenard said they expect to start fixing the intersection in spring or early summer and that it should take two to three months to complete.

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