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Jennings Sunday: 1st step near for State Street project

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NORTH VERNON — Bids on the $3.3 million South State Street project in North Vernon are scheduled to be opened this month.

The 15-month project is expected to begin early this summer with the relocation of utilities from the Muscatatuck County Park near Vernon north to U.S. 50, according to Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Greg Prince.

After the preliminary work is completed, crews will add a two-way left turn lane along the street. Once completed, South State Street will include two 12-foot through lanes. In addition, new sidewalks will be added south of Jefferson Street, as well as new curbs and gutters, he said.

INDOT also said the project will improve drainage control and allow the city of North Vernon to replace its sanitary sewer main in the area.

Prince said the project is scheduled for completion by Aug. 29, 2014.

Since the thoroughfare serves both State Roads 3 and 7 through the southern half of North Vernon, Prince said efforts will be made to minimize driver inconvenience. He emphasized that the highway will remain open throughout construction.

“Traffic will be maintained to the current two lanes,” Prince said. “But there will be a wide load restriction of 10 feet.”

Construction areas will be kept to two-block segments, in order to allow vehicles to move through the area, he added.

When the project was proposed to the community during a June 2011 public hearing, INDOT officials cited a number of safety concerns with the current road.

Twice as many traffic accidents have occurred along the South State Street corridor than the statewide average for a similar street.

Restricted visibility at the sharp curve near the entrance to Muscatatuck County Park.

The existence of both Walnut Grove School and the Jennings County Visitors Center in the area.

North Vernon City Council member Brian Hatfield said he has not heard concerns from the owners of stores located along South State Street about how the long construction period might impact their business.

But Hatfield said he has heard concerns about a planned 6-foot sidewalk that would extend all the way to the curb.

“There’s a group of residents headed by Kathy Eaton that have requested a buffer between the sidewalk and curb,” Hatfield said. “I haven’t heard yet what (INDOT) has decided about that.”

Even before construction has begun on South Street, initial conversations have already begun between North Vernon and INDOT on another major project on North State Street.

Mayor Harold “Soup” Campbell said the bridge over the railroad tracks that separate Hayden Pike and O&M Avenue needs to be replaced.

“You can see the deterioration on it,” Campbell said. “It’s in the area of 45 years old, and it’s getting to the point where it might become dangerous.”

But Campbell said there are a number of complexities that likely will keep a final decision on the replacement of the overpass bridge from being made for at least one year.

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