Newman Road Underpass
West Lafayette, Indiana
The Newman Road Underpass project enhanced public safety, improved access to a growing Discovery Park District, and provided opportunity for job growth and economic development to the Purdue University and West Lafayette, Indiana communities.
The Purdue University and the City of West Lafayette Joint Board served as the client for this project. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and the Purdue Research Foundation (PRF) contributed to the project by providing funding. Purdue University and the City of West Lafayette partnered with the entrant team to deliver a modern roadway, roundabout, and bridge structure to accommodate easier access for passenger, commercial, and emergency vehicles; provide improved pedestrian and bicycle access and safety to the Discovery Park District; and create a gateway and front-door presence to Purdue Research Foundation’s aerospace partners.
The Newman Road Underpass project provides much economic development and sustainable development benefits to Purdue University, the Purdue Research Foundation, and the Discovery Park District. This district was envisioned as a flagship area for public and private aerospace research and development in the nation to advance aviation and aeronautics innovations. Road improvements were crucial to seeing the vision become a full reality. The new bridge structure replaced a 1-lane, 100-year-old underpass bridge long identified as too narrow, too low, and too dangerous for modern travel. The structure’s top clearance was marked at 11 feet, 2 inches at its rounded peak, which was significantly below federal and state guidelines. The low clearance made it impossible for commercial truck traffic to travel from SR 26 to the district. The one-lane underpass was cited as a reason for slow progress in developing the Discovery Park District.
The rural qualities of Newman Road also served as a major roadblock to district growth. The existing Newman Road corridor consisted of two 10-foot lanes and open shoulders with no additional room to accommodate pedestrian facilities or increased vehicular traffic. It became obvious that the outdated underpass and Newman Road would cause significant challenges to the types of corporations looking to relocate to the area.
In April 2019, Purdue University, the City of West Lafayette, INDOT, and the Purdue Research Foundation announced a joint local public agency roadway improvement project using a design-bid-build delivery method.
The project’s design completely reconstructed and widened Newman Road from SR 26 to Benson Road. The SR 26 and Newman Road intersection was converted to a dual-lane roundabout to improve traffic flow, and the project was complete with a new lighted, multi-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists, which improved the quality of life for West Lafayette residents.
The Newman Road project officially opened up the district for business. The reconstructed bridge and widened roadway enabled further development that brings with it the potential to create up to 3,500 high-tech jobs and lead to the development of 1.6 million square feet of new office, research, and manufacturing space. Since July 2021, Purdue University has announced several hypersonics research and development projects to be built in the district, demonstrating the importance of improved accessibility provided by the Newman Road corridor. These include the first-of-its kind Hypersonic Ground Test Center, a Hypersonic Applied Research Facility housing the only Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel in the world and a hypersonic pulse shock (HYPULSE) tunnel, and expansion of a Rolls-Royce test facility to develop high-altitude and hybrid-electric engines powering the next generation of US military aircraft. Purdue University and the Purdue Research Foundation’s district is now, according to Purdue Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Mung Chiang, “the epicenter of hypersonic research and testing in the United States.” The district appears well on its way to achieving the initial vision set by Purdue University officials to be a major national center for aerospace and aeronautics research and development
Constructing a roundabout at SR 26 and Newman Road is a more environmentally friendly option over a signalized intersection. Because all approaches are yield controlled for modern roundabouts, the total numbers of vehicles that must stop is drastically reduced. Fewer stopped vehicles translate to a reduction in air pollution, noise pollution, and fuel consumption. Roundabouts reduce vehicular conflict points, the angle of impacts, and the resulting injuries from crashes that may occur in roundabouts when compared to traditional stop-controlled and signal-controlled intersections. Statistics show that roundabouts save lives over conventional intersections – fatal crashes are reduced by 90%, personal injury accidents are reduced by 80%, and pedestrian accidents are reduced up to 40%.
The Newman Road Underpass project has and will continue to enhance the future of the Discovery Park District and provide economic development opportunities throughout the Greater West Lafayette community for generations to come.
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Awards + Recognition
2022 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) National Recognition Award
2022 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Indiana Engineering Excellence Honor Award
2021 Indiana Society of Professional Engineers Indiana Engineering Achievement Award
2020 Indiana American Public Works Association (APWA) Public Works Project of the Year for Transportation