Lowell Road project to begin

City, INDOT make agreement for next phase

Columbus has entered an agreement with the Indiana Department of Transportation for the second phase of a project to improve Lowell Road.

The project will involve widening, and possibly adding additional travel lanes on the road between the I-65 bridge and Indianapolis Road, which is the portion within the city limits, said Dave Hayward, the city’s executive director of public works/city engineer.

At Tuesday’s Board of Works meeting, Hayward explained that the INDOT agreement is the next step in the process for the joint project between the city, state and federal government to fund the project. The city’s Transportation Improvement Program gives the price tag for the work at about $2.8 million in federal funding and $713,848 in matching local dollars for the road improvements.

Bartholomew County completed improvements for its section of Lowell Road from County Road 325W to the Interstate 65 bridge last summer.

The two-mile stretch of road outside the city limits had curves that were leveled out to not be quite as sharp, county officials said. The roadway was widened from 18 feet to 24 feet wide, along with repaving.

The Lowell Road improvements are part of an upgrade plan to handle traffic trying to avoid a scheduled increase in train traffic through Columbus across the State Road 46 and State Road 11 intersection on Columbus’ west side, city officials said.

Sometimes referred to as the “back way” by west side motorists, County Road 325W to Lowell Road takes commuters around the west side of Columbus to the north side, where they can access U.S. 31 and a rail overpass there. The “back way” takes motorists to the city’s main business corridor, National Road.

Beginning later this year, Louisville & Indiana Railroad and CSX have announced they will increase northbound traffic on the railroad line across State Road 46 from four to six trains now to as many as 22 trains a day at higher speeds than previously have been seen on the track.

Preparation work is being completed on a new railroad bridge near Noblitt Park in downtown Columbus, which is being upgraded to handle heavier stacked railway cars at higher speeds when the train traffic increases, said John Goldman, president of Louisville & Indiana Railroad. After the new rail bridge is installed, trains will be able to travel over it at 30 to 35 mph, compared to the 10 mph speed limit on the structure now, he said.

When the bridge is completed, expected to be mid-September to October, the number of trains will increase for the high-speed rail project, he said.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.