Road work causing headaches near Elizabethtown

When Bartholomew County commissioner Carl Lienhoop warned that road construction south and east of Columbus will be “awful this year,” most people didn’t know the details of numerous projects that are planned.

Large sections of U.S. 31 in southern Bartholomew County are scheduled to be closed for road work beginning this spring. And with only one lane of a bridge carrying two-way traffic across State Road 7 near County Road 525E, Elizabethtown officials anticipate a number of drivers will detour through their small community.

But motorists will find delays in Elizabethtown as well, as workers will be upgrading a more than 80-year-old storm water system for the town’s 400 residents.

As town council member Fred Barnett sees it, there’s good news and bad news awaiting motorists who believe Elizabethtown could provide the best shortcut around road construction.

The good news is that street closings connected to the long-overdue storm sewer upgrade should not have a direct impact on detouring motorists, Barnett said.

Most of the work that will begin in either late April or early May will take place near the Little Jordan River, especially along Railroad Street, he said.

But the bad news — at least for impatient drivers — is that Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputies, as well as Elizabethtown police, expect to spend much of their time this spring and summer on the lookout for speeders exceeding the town’s 30 mph limit, Barnett said.

“Our biggest concern is the safety of our kids, especially those playing during the summer months,” Barnett said.

Although cutting through Elizabethtown might seem like a good idea, motorists are likely to discover they will save more time by using official detours or finding alternate routes, the council member said.

A $470,000 grant, awarded by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, will fund the town project designed to prevent flooding and potential health risks from stormwater that now overflows into the town’s sewer system, city officials announced last fall.

There will be four major areas of the project:

Culverts will be replaced and existing drainage ditches will be deepened at Railroad Street, between Fifth and 11th streets.

Three new stormwater inlets will be installed next to the central storm sewer itself, which serves Poplar, Railroad and Walnut streets.

Drainage infrastructure will be installed in the area southwest of Fifth and West streets.

Bank stabilization measures are planned along the Little Jordan, which is the main drainage ditch that runs through Elizabethtown.

All work is expected to be completed around the first week of September.

Barnett predicts that Elizabethtown residents also will experience some frustration, as the town stormwater work will coincide with bridge replacement on State Road 46 near Rock Creek Elementary School.

“We didn’t know all these other projects would be going on at the time we applied for the grant,” Barnett said. “But when the short-term inconvenience is over, things will be a lot better for both the county and Elizabethtown in the long run.”

Nearby construction projects

Besides extensive storm-sewer work, motorists in the area around Elizabethtown area may encounter closures or restrictions as the result of three nearby road construction projects.

  • One lane carrying two-way traffic at the bridge over Little Sand Creek along State Road 7 near County Road 525E (now through Nov. 15).
  • Closing of the bridge on State Road 46 East that spans Fishers Fork Creek near Rockcreek Elementary School, between East Base Road and County Road 100N (March 21 – Aug. 19).
  • Closing of the U.S. 31 Sand Creek Bridge at the Jackson – Bartholomew County line (April 4 through Nov. 15).
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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.