Steady growth on the northeast side of Columbus, as well as the city’s emphasis on bicycle and pedestrian pathways, has spurred the city to invest $1.7 million in an $8.5 million renovation of one of its busiest roads.

Preliminary engineering on improvements to Rocky Ford Road targeted a one-mile stretch between Taylor and Talley Roads, where residential and commercial developments are popping up more frequently.

Steve Ruble, a project manager with Columbus-based Strand Associates, which completed the preliminary engineering work late last year, said his company focused on that stretch of Rocky Ford at the direction of city officials.

Projected development along Rocky Ford Road makes improvements to the road a priority, said Dave Hayward, executive director of public works/city engineer.

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“It’s a growth area of the city, with new subdivisions in the northeast area and a lot of development taking place,” Hayward said.

Currently, farm fields and residential areas line the stretch of Rocky Ford Road between Taylor and Talley, including major subdivisions such as Indian Hills, Presidential Parks North and Eastridge Manor.

Other types of properties also access the road, including the city’s Par 3 Golf Course, St. John’s Masonic Lodge and Calvary Nazarene Church.

A nicer road will improve the visibility of the church, said the Rev. Shane Rocker, whose congregation sold some property along the road to be used for right of way.

“We’ve been here 40 years, but it does elevate the newness of the area,” the pastor said.

Rocker said the bike lanes and sidewalks will increase safety for people involved in healthy pursuits. When driving on Rocky Ford, Rocker said he has come across runners in the path of traffic, raising a safety concern.

Like Rocker, resident Jim Ogilvie — who has lived in the Presidential Parks neighborhood for about two years — said he often sees people walking along the road, especially near the golf course. There are few places now for golfers to walk along the course near the road, so adding sidewalks and bike lanes will increase safety, he said.

Project goals

Three goals have been identified for the project:Increase traffic safety and efficiencyProvide a safe route for bicyclists and pedestrians

Improve the city’s storm drainage network

To accommodate the increasing traffic, Rocky Ford Road will be widened to two 11-foot through lanes, with a center left-turn lane that will be 12 feet wide, Hayward said. Five-foot bike lanes will be added on the road.

The continuous left-turn lane in the center is designed prevent a back-up of cars as a driver prepares to turn.

“It’s basically an old county road that needed to be improved to handle the current and projected traffic that’s out there,” Hayward said.

Also included in the road will be two, five-foot sidewalks, one on each side of the road, similar to the design along 17th Street, Ruble said.

The concrete lanes will be separated from the main road by 10 feet of grass buffers on either side of the road to create a safer environment for pedestrians and bicyclists who choose to use the path.

Finally, the project will make major improvements to Sloan Branch Bridge, which is often prone to flooding, making it difficult for motorists to pass during severe storms.

“It needs to be widened and totally replaced,” Hayward said.

Strand’s preliminary engineering calls for a new reinforced concrete bridge, located near Elizabeth and Maryland streets, to be constructed on top of the existing structure to accommodate the projected traffic increase.

Additionally, a new hydraulic opening will also be installed to facilitate better drainage during heavy rains and cut down on flooding in the area immediately surrounding the bridge.

The hydraulic opening will be part of an entirely new storm drainage system that will be installed along the length of the construction project, Ruble said. The system will empty into the Sloan Branch creek, which runs under the bridge, and will reduce the risk of flooding on the entire northeast side of the city.

The new city administration has made one change in the project so far — terminating a contract with United Consulting of Indianapolis for consulting services.

The city’s Board of Works voted Jan. 12 to end the United contract, in which no money had yet changed hands, and instead hired Janssen & Spaans Engineering of Indianapolis.

Janssen & Spaans had responded to a request for proposals for consulting services on the project and was selected last year. Afterward, its proposal was rejected and United was awarded the contract in November, Hayward said.

The Indiana Department of Transportation had both companies listed as consultants and asked the city to choose one before the project moved forward, with Janssen & Spaans chosen after the two requests were re-evaluated, Hayward said.

Timetable

The state opened bids on the project Wednesday, and the low bid came from Milestone Contractors of Columbus, bidding $6,316,287.66 for the contract, which is about $300,000 below the project’s $6.6 million estimate, Hayward said. Additional engineering, inspection and acquisition costs would bring the total project price up to $8.5 million.Federal transportation dollars allocated to the city would cover about 80 percent of the cost, or $6.8 million.The remaining costs will be covered through city and county funds already allocated for the bridge replacement portion of the project, which means there will be no additional expense to taxpayers to make the infrastructure improvements.

Once an engineer has been selected for the project, work on the road will begin with right-of-way clearing and utility relocation. Construction is expected to begin late this year or in early 2017.

The Rocky Ford Road project is expected to take two construction seasons to complete, with improvements completed by the winter of 2017, Ruble said.

Most traffic disruption will probably occur during the bridge reconstruction, a phased process that will probably involve closing the road on one side and then the other during the work, Hayward said.

About the project

Major planned improvements to Rocky Ford Road between Taylor and Talley roads on the northeast side of Columbus include:

  • Widening the road to 45 feet, with two asphalt travel lanes and a left-turn lane in the center.
  • Building concrete sidewalks that include paths for bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Rebuilding Sloan Branch Bridge and installing a new drainage system.

In total, the project will cost $8.5 million, with the city covering about $1.7 million of the cost.

Pull Quote

“It’s basically an old county road that needed to be improved to handle the current and projected traffic that’s out there.”

— Dave Hayward, executive director of public works/city engineer

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.