Construction of a controversial $1.7 million roundabout at U.S. 31 and Southern Crossing is moving forward.
The final decision was made weeks before a third public hearing on the project was conducted Thursday.
It’s a “done deal,” Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Harry Maginity said.
Instead of gathering citizen input, he said, the purpose of the meeting at Clifty Creek Elementary School was to publicly announce the approval and explain design changes intended to address earlier concerns.
The changes include widening the roundabout to better accommodate commercial trucks and farm combines and the addition of roadway curvatures for smoother transitions, project consultant Michael Maurovich said.
Other recently voiced public concerns included street lighting, alternate routes, controlling noise from braking semitrailer rigs and aesthetics.
About 10 people, including state Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, were on hand for the third hearing, Maginity said. Most of those in attendance were still voicing opposition, he said.
Maginity and Bartholomew County Commissioners Chairman Carl Lienhoop believe the negative opinions were mostly based on initial poor experiences with a roundabout near Mill Race Center in downtown Columbus.
Another county commissioner, Larry Kleinhenz, voiced concerns May 19 that the roundabout will slow all traffic on busy U.S. 31.
No matter what improvements are made, trucks will still have accidents in that location, Kleinhenz said.
He expressed a concern that one disabled semi in a roundabout could block the entire intersection.
But Kleinhenz also conceded that numerous state and federal studies conclude that roundabouts reduce fatalities, injuries and the extent of property damage.
“I guess saving lives trumps every argument you can have, and that’s what (INDOT) is hanging their hat on,” Kleinhenz said.
Southern Crossing connects County Roads 450S and 400S just south of Walesboro in southern Bartholomew County.
Maginity said that, since a small amount of land still must be purchased, appraisals are expected to be submitted by December.
All needed property must first be purchased before INDOT can begin seeking the lowest offer from bids submitted by contractors, he said.
“This project was originally scheduled to be let next year, but I think that may be pushed back a bit,” Maginity said.