Overpass project funding process begins

Bartholomew County taking first steps for work over State Road 46, State Road 11

Bartholomew County government has taken its first step toward fulfilling its $2 million commitment to help pay for a $30 million overpass over the State Road 46/State Road 11 intersection.

The Bartholomew County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Monday that calls for up to $1.3 million to be earmarked for the project this year. A final vote is expected Aug. 7.

The money will come from a fund made up of economic development income tax monies, commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said. About $250,000 has been put into the fund annually over the last six years, Kleinhenz said.

“We anticipated it would go to a more defined project like a company coming in and adding 500 new jobs,” Kleinhenz said. “But we felt this was the right fit for this money.”

County councilman Jorge Morales agreed with Kleinhenz during the council’s work session Monday night.

“These monies are for redevelopment, and this is a redevelopment for the entire community,” Morales said. “This is money well spent.”

In addition, the commissioners will provide another $200,000 toward the project from their Telecommunications Fund, which receives $100,000 annually from cable franchise fees, commissioner Carl Lienhoop told the Bartholomew County Council Monday night.

The remaining $500,000 of the county’s $2 million commitment will likely come from economic development income tax revenue the county will received in 2018 and 2019, Lienhoop said.

In order to afford what Lienhoop calls “a big bottom line increase,” it’s likely construction on a new highway garage may have to be delayed by at least a year, Lienhoop said.

Pam Clark, a Democrat who ran but was defeated for a seat on the Bartholomew County Council last year, told the council she couldn’t understand why the county would pledge $2 million for a state highway overpass.

Cummins, Inc. agreement to partner with the city, county and state on the project is part of the reason, councilmen said.

“It’s much easier to keep your current employers happy than it is to replace jobs you might lose if they are not happy,” said council president Laura DeDomenic, who also cited public safety as another reason.

Describing Cummins as the community’s lifeline, Kleinhenz said he felt it was an honor to contribute after the corporation announced it was making a long-term financial commitment to the overpass.

“If we didn’t participate, can you imagine how the leaders of that company could feel toward local government?” Kleinhenz asked the council.

If the county had refused to make their $2 million commitment, it could also jeopardize the $15 million pledged by the state that represents half of the project’s overall cost, Lienhoop said.

Other funding sources for the overpass identified during an early July press conference include:

  • $4 million from the city’s Central Tax Increment Finance District funds.
  • $1.5 million from CSX and Louisville & Indiana Railroads
  • $2.5 million from state or federal highway programs.

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop still needs to raise an addition $3 million by September to meet a timeline set by the state, DeDomenic said.

Council members said they will urge the mayor to work with the Indiana Department of Transportation in raising flood-prone areas of both state roads during the construction period.

The mayor has been invited to the council’s regular Aug. 8 meeting, where votes on the spending proposals are planned.

About the project

The Indiana Department of Transportation has agreed to place Columbus’ proposal for an overpass over the rail line at State Road 46/State Road 11 intersection on a project list for the 2022 construction year.

INDOT’s current estimate for the project is $30 million and the state has agreed to pay half. The remainder will be paid through Tax Increment Funds from the city’s Central TIF district and the Cummins Engine Plant TIF, and donations from Bartholomew County, CSX Railroad, Louisville & Indiana Railroad, and a combination of state and federal funding. Some savings may result in the project costing less than the $30 million the state is estimating — the city has placed the cost at $27.2 million.

The city has shelved a proposal to relocate the rail line further west at this time.

Proposed funding for the overpass is subject to approval by the Columbus City Council, Columbus Redevelopment Commission, Bartholomew County Commissioners, Bartholomew County Council and the state.

The city is contacting federal representatives, including U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, and Todd Young, R-Indiana, and seeking assistance for federal funding for the project. The city also is pursuing state funding through Indiana’s recent increase in the gasoline tax, which is to be designated for infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges.

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