Plan for trail project approved

There’s been a sidewalk to nowhere on Columbus’ far west side for almost three years, but that’s about to change.

The Carr Hill Road Trail Project, which ends abruptly at the Interstate 65 overpass off Jonathan Moore Pike, is scheduled to be completed a few years from now, said Bartholomew County Highway engineer Danny Hollander.

Bartholomew County officials have approved an agreement for a complete pedestrian walkway from the Tipton Lakes area south of Terrace Lake east and north to the back of Menards, a home improvement center at 2315 Merchant Mile.

On Oct. 5, 2014, Columbus completed several improvements west of the overpass that included bike lanes and sidewalks. But east of the overpass, Carr Hill is a county road, Hollander said.

Although the county planned to eventually install about 1,000 feet of sidewalks to complete the project, officials have been reluctant to complete the project, Hollander said.

A key reason is that the Indiana Department of Transportation plans to overhaul the I-65 overpass before the end of 2019, Hollander said.

“When I found out INDOT was doing that project, I was hoping to get free sidewalks out of it,” Hollander said. “I also didn’t want to build something that was going to get torn out.”

Some county officials also anticipated the city might annex the county’s portion of Carr Hill Road after county tax dollars were invested in the sidewalks, Hollander said.

But a 22-page long agreement approved Oct. 30 by the Bartholomew County commissioners sets out responsibilities for completing the trail.

The county is agreeing to extend the sidewalk from near Apple Blossom Drive west along Carr Hill Road to just past Mutz Drive, which is within 250 feet of the overpass, Commissioner Rick Flohr said.

In exchange, INDOT agrees to complete the sidewalk once the overpass work is completed, so it extends all the way to the overpass guardrail, Hollander said.

In addition, the state has committed to paying for all necessary fill work, as well as acquire necessary right-of-way, Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said.

A similar agreement regarding sidewalks near residential developments off nearby County Road 200S is expected soon, but the city has agreed to assume the county’s responsibilities for all the new sidewalks in that area, Hollander said.

The agreement is between INDOT, the city and the county, commissioners Chairman Carl Lienhoop said.

While that may take care of one problem, traffic congestion is creating another issue at two main entry points off Jonathan Moore Pike: Carr Hill Road and Johnson Boulevard, Kleinhenz said.

“I’m curious what the city is going to do, because on a busy day, you just can’t get out from those roads,” Kleinhenz said. “If that area continues to grow, I don’t know what they are going to do.”

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