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Rough Crossing: Railroad repairs to close State Road 46

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Kendal Hammel wants to foresee his Columbus North tennis team playing in the Jasper Semistate on Saturday. But he could do without thinking about Friday’s ride.

With a win this week, the Bull Dogs would board a bus about 3 p.m. Friday and attempt to get to Jasper. The driver would have to find a way to get out of town first.

“It’s all feasible,” Hammel said. “It’s just going to take a little more time.”

Attention Columbus: Be prepared. Railroad repairs will close down State Road 46, just west of State Road 11, from about 9 a.m. Friday to Monday afternoon. City and county safety officials are asking drivers to know alternate routes and exercise patience through what they’re hoping to be merely a minor inconvenience.

“We encourage people to go out and start planning ahead,” said Lt. Matt Myers, spokesperson for the Columbus Police Department. “And, remember, traffic is going to be congested.”

A 13.4-mile detour route — as measured by Google Earth — has been mapped out by the Indiana Department of Transportation. It suggests drivers wrap south around town, using State Road 11, County Road 450S and Interstate 65.

City officials said people could use alternative routes, such as taking State Road 11 to County Road 200S and traveling north on Terrace Lake Road and Carr Hill Road. According to Google Earth, that route would be 7.8 miles.

Hammel, who lives downtown and works as head tennis pro at Tipton Lakes Athletic Club, expects to be rolling slowly while getting to and from his job Friday. And he’s OK with that.

“Just for a couple days it’s going to be a hindrance,” he said.

City, county and state officials have worked together to develop a safety plan. Police will be dispersed throughout the west side of town and present at intersections along the detour routes. The Columbus Fire Department will have extra firefighters stationed at Station No. 5, 100 Goeller Blvd., about a mile southwest of the intersection of State Road 46 and I-65.

“If you look at the city, (Station No. 5) is going to be isolated,” Columbus Fire Chief Dave Allmon said. “It’s going to be a harder time to get to something on the (west) side of the tracks. ... So that’s why we’ve worked out the mutual-aid between townships, county and city to help Station No. 5. (The mutual aid) has always been there, but we’re just making sure everybody understands.”

Columbus Regional Hospital will staff one extra ambulance from Friday through Monday. The extra ambulance will be a mobile unit, meaning it will not have a permanent location but will move around as needed in the area west of the closure, hospital spokeswoman Paige Harden said.

When bringing patients to the hospital from a location west of the closure, CRH will use detours identified by INDOT, Harden said.

According to INDOT, more than 32,000 vehicles travel through the intersection each day.

For commuters, it might be best to plan on an extra 15 to 30 minutes of travel time each morning and afternoon, depending on congestion.

City Engineer Dave Hayward, city police and INDOT officials discussed a lane restriction as an alternative to road closure but decided it was best to make the fix quickly. They estimated a lane restriction would take weeks longer to complete and still be a difficult for drivers attempting to drive east and west on State Road 46.

The construction coincides largely with the fall break for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

INDOT and Louisville and Indiana Railroad won’t start construction until 9 a.m. Friday, after buses go through for morning classes.

“The only time it will impact us is Friday afternoon,” BCSC transportation manager Monica Coburn said. “So we’re pretty confident it shouldn’t cause too much of a delay.”

Hammel hopes that to be the case. Of course, his tennis team needs to win the regional before mapping out a trip to Jasper. But just in case, Hammel has a plan.

“We’d just go (U.S. 31) to I-65 and take that south,” he said. “It might be more of a problem for people who would want to come watch Saturday.”

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