Time runs out for road projects

For once, it wasn’t a matter of money in Bartholomew County government.

Instead, both time and weather will keep a number of rural roads originally scheduled to get a new blacktop this year from being repaired until warm weather returns in spring.

The first phase of the annual Overlay Program, which involved 31 projects totaling 16.76 miles of county roads, was completed on schedule after contracts were awarded in May.

That same month, an additional 13 projects that constitute 12.55 miles — including all blacktop work scheduled in Wayne, Sandcreek and German townships — also were approved as Phase Two.

But those 13 projects were contingent upon receiving a matching state grant. Although the $836,000 was eventually awarded, the county didn’t learn it would receive the money until late September — about a month later than expected.

“That’s pretty late in the construction season,” county highway engineer Danny Hollander told the Bartholomew County commissioners Monday. “And we still haven’t seen any of that money yet.”

Once the notification of the grant was made, road crews from Milestone Contractors were able to pave about 5 miles of the second phase, Hollander said.

“But there are still about eight miles left,” Hollander said.

Although road crews still are attempting to forge ahead, the weather has not been as mild or dry as it was in late 2016, when second phase overlay work was completed shortly before Christmas, Hollander said.

“With the temperatures now dropping into the 20s most mornings, it’s hard to get any paving done,” the highway engineer said.

Hollander agreed with commissioner chairman Carl Lienhoop, who said the current weather pattern is not expected to noticeably improve.

Asphalt plants have announced they will close for the winter in two weeks, which will likely end the road construction season until late March, Hollander told the commissioners.

Meanwhile, 88 miles of county roads received chip-and-seal repairs this year — considerably more than the 50 to 60 miles that are normally done annually, Hollander said.

Chip-and-seal treatments, which use a blend of asphalt and gravel, provide temporary repairs at about a quarter of the $60,000-per-mile cost of a new blacktop, he said.

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