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Official requests delay in repaving

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A Columbus city councilman is taking the city’s State Street concerns to state officials in Indianapolis Councilman Ryan Brand talked with Indiana Department of Transportation leaders about about delaying planned repaving and curb ramp work on State Street next year.

The delay would give the city more time to complete its plans for the State Street corridor revamp, Brand said.

A delegation of city officials and community members plan to petition INDOT to delay the project.

The delegation will include representatives from the Columbus Park Foundation, Columbus Regional Health, Cummins Inc., Dorel Juvenile Group and Subway.

Brand said he reached out to the INDOT central office Aug. 14 after learning that no one from the city or its engineering firm for the project had reached out to INDOT in Indianapolis.

He said he was frustrated with the seeming lack of progress in conversations among the agency’s Seymour district office, Mayor Kristen Brown and City Engineer Beth Fizel.

Now, Brand is talking with division leaders within the state agency about meeting to discuss a possible delay and partnership between the state agency and the city in order to “get this project done in the way that it needed to be done without there being a rushed timeline.”

The city spent more than a year developing the plan for the State Street corridor, but it now is spending relatively little time trying to put the first phase of the plan into action, Brand said.

City officials also will work with State Street area residents and business owners to form a State Street implementation committee, an effort being spearheaded by councilman Frank Jerome, who is vice president of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission.

State Street vision

The State Street Corridor plan was officially accepted as part of the city’s comprehensive plan July 1. The plan includes improvements to State Street intersections and sidewalks, a new multiuse trail, plans to attract new businesses to the area and better signage, among other enhancements.

United Consulting, an Indianapolis-based engineering firm working with the city, drew up cost estimates for two options in implementing the first phase of the plan:

A $1.9 million option that calls for safety improvements where State Street intersects with Central Avenue and splits into Second and Third streets, and an 8-foot People Trail made of decorative asphalt pavers along the north side of State Street from Central Avenue to Indiana Avenue. Additionally, a new sidewalk would be installed along the south side of the street from Central Avenue to North Mapleton Street and along the north side from Indiana Avenue to North Mapleton.

A $2.8 million option that takes the improvements in the less expensive option and adds a People Trail stretching from Central Avenue west to Lafayette Avenue along the north side of Third Street.

Brown said the city still has plenty of time to talk about the current scope of the project as presented by United Consulting, which she called “a phenomenal project for the east side of Columbus.”

Brown said she would like to see a final decision about INDOT delaying the project within the next month. She also asked for a timely formation of the implementation committee.

The Columbus Redevelopment Commission has approved a $70,200 contract with United Consulting to complete a topographical survey of State and Third streets between Lafayette Avenue and North Mapleton Street, which engineers from the firm said will take about a month to complete.

The commission also approved an additional $418,300 for engineering and design services, subject to city council approval.

INDOT conversations

During a Tuesday night city council discussion of the city’s contract with United, Brand told the mayor and councilmen that he has had productive conversations with officials from INDOT’s central office about the potential to delay the project.

But INDOT’s Seymour district office, which is managing the highway project, has no plans for a delay, INDOT spokesman Harry Maginity told city officials Tuesday night.

The State Street road construction is still set for next year, Maginity said. The district office has not been notified about any discussions to delay the project.

The district might be open to conversations about pursing approval from the Federal Highway Administration to delay installing new curb ramps for no longer than one year, however, Maginity said. The district office would follow any direction from its superiors in the Indianapolis office, he said.

If INDOT agrees to delay the repaving or even just the ramp installation, it would give the city time to form an implementation committee, as set out in the plan, and figure out what stakeholders really want to see the project become, Brand said.

Councilman Frank Miller said he is worried that the current plan presented by United Consulting, which calls for sidewalk and intersection improvements and a trail along a four-block stretch of the north side of State Street, represents a bare minimum rather than a true revitalization of East Columbus as another front door to the city.

Brand said that while he understands there is an opportunity to maximize state and city resources by completing improvements in conjunction with INDOT’s pavement and curb project, that shouldn’t be done at the expense of the overall vision of the project.

This first tier of implementation, Brand said, is also the first part of a comprehensive plan, and the city needs to be putting its best foot forward.

“People talk about projects like this being a catalyst for change, and I agree that they can be,” he said. “But they are not a catalyst for change unless they represent true excellence and something that’s very different from what you’re seeing in that area.”

There’s no question that the topographic survey needs to happen, Brand said, and councilmen realize the city needs to know what the actual right of way is and what space the city has to work in.

But the rest of the project depends on whether the city can get cooperation from INDOT to delay its project until the city has all its pieces in place, he said.

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