County sets second phase: Officials await grants to begin more roadwork

Almost a million dollars in state grants is being sought to fund additional Bartholomew County road and bridge projects this fall.

All forms have been completed and submitted for consideration in the 2017 Community Crossings matching grant program. Last year, 320 city and county agencies competed for money administered by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The county should learn how much it will receive, if any, in either late August or early September, Bartholomew County Highway engineer Danny Hollander said.

While three projects have been submitted in hopes of receiving half of their funding from the INDOT program, only two projects will likely be approved, Hollander said.

That’s because the county does not currently have $993,000 in non-committed funds required to cover half the costs of all three projects, Hollander said. When the program debuted last year, the county received $999,255 — less than $1,000 short of the maximum.

But since the Indiana General Assembly added 10 cents a gallon to the gas tax to raise funds for road and bridge repairs, Hollander expressed strong confidence two of the projects will be approved.

The gas tax increase, as well as a new $15 vehicle registration fee, is expected to raise about $1.2 billion annually by 2024 to repair state and local roads.

The largest and most significant of this year’s three requests is to put an entirely new coat of asphalt on about 12.5 miles of county roads for Phase 2 of the county’s annual overlay program.

If the grant is approved, the county will receive half of the anticipated $1.6 million cost.

The other two projects and their projected total costs are:

$331,000 to do an additional 35 miles of chip-and-seal road work throughout the county.

$54,649 to place a new deck on the county bridge along County Road 300N, between County Roads 1100E and 1125E.

Although unpopular with some residents, chip-and-seal treatments provide repairs that last up to five years at about a quarter of the $60,000-per-mile cost of a new blacktop, Hollander said.

The Bartholomew County Commissioners approved a bid from E&H Bridge Inc. of Bedford to put the new deck on the 300N bridge, north of Anderson Falls.

The truss bridge has been off-limits to traffic since May 2015, when heavy rust was discovered on critical parts of the structure. But since the road has low-traffic volume, as well as alternate routes to State Road 46 East that add little to no distance, local officials have felt little public pressure to reopen it quickly, Hollander said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.