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It is impossible in the minds of East Columbus residents to overstate the importance of the $7 million improvement project scheduled to begin next year on Indiana Avenue.
It is a mission that should have been undertaken decades ago, and the community is fortunate in that it was spared one or more tragedies in the 40 years that Columbus East High School has been in existence.
Residents of the Indiana Avenue neighborhoods note the time frame during which students at the high school who walk to the campus are forced to choose between walking in residential yards or the heavily traveled city street. That none of those students were killed by passing vehicles is a matter of luck.
The project, almost a mile long, will involve rebuilding the street; addition of curbs, gutters, sidewalks and bike lanes; and improvement of 14 intersections along the path of the roadway that connects State Street and Marr Road, just north of the high school.
City officials report this stretch of street has approximately 2,400 vehicles traveling on it every day, a number that is expected to mushroom to 5,200 vehicles by 2030.
The Indiana Avenue plan has been in the works for seven years. It began in the administration of Mayor Fred Armstrong and was coupled with a widening of State Street several years ago.
Just as the Indiana Avenue project is long overdue, so is a comprehensive plan to improve the East Columbus area. Government alone is not able to achieve what needs to be done in the area, and it will not be until the private sector makes significant commitments that the promise of so many decades will be finally fulfilled.
In the meantime, projects such as the Indiana Avenue undertaking cannot wait. The mechanics of preparing for construction are time-consuming, primarily in the land acquisition phase. It is gratifying that a significant number of property owners in the area were willing to sell to the city portions of their properties to make way for the work.
The city already has spent $1.1 million for right-of-way acquisition and engineering costs. A portion of that amount ($229,760) has been reimbursed by the federal government. Mayor Kristen Brown reports that the city has set aside approximately $1.4 million in the budget next year for the project.
The major funder for the undertaking will be the federal government, which is expected to provide 80 percent of the overall costs. The city’s share will be the remaining 20 percent.
The bottom line of $7 million is a significant amount, but it is a project that is well worth the cost.
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