City officials are hopeful that a road improvement project on County Road 200S will help solve traffic congestion problems at Southside Elementary School and the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds while improving walking opportunities in the area.
The project, estimated to cost $1.6 million to $2.3 million, according to bids received last week, is designed to smooth vehicle and pedestrian traffic on the busy road, said Dave Hayward, the city engineer. The section of road to be improved will be from State Road 11 to the entrance of the Cross Creek subdivision, passing just south of the school and the fairgrounds.
“It is your typical old county road that is pretty narrow down there,” Hayward said. “We are widening it a little bit, adding curb and gutter, sidewalk on one side, storm sewer. We’ve got a whole new railroad crossing and railroad signal going in down there.”
The finished road also will have a left-turn lane. Some of the improvements have been started, including utility relocations and tree removal. The project required the city to acquire about 17 pieces of property for the right-of-way.
Hayward said about 5,000 vehicles travel on the road daily. The road is being upgraded to handle 10,000 vehicles per day.
“We have so much development out there, and Southside school generates a lot of traffic from Tipton Lakes and various locations,” he said.
Hayward said that the major work should start within 30 to 60 days. Bids were received by the state on Wednesday and will be reviewed before a decision is made. The low bid was $1.63 million by Dave O’Mara Contractors Inc., North Vernon. The city will pay 20 percent of the cost, while the remaining 80 percent will be picked up by the federal government, Hayward said.
Karen Wetherald, transportation director for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., said school district officials are ecstatic about the coming improvements.
Southside has seven buses that run routes through the nearby Shadow Creek Farms subdivision and drive on 200S. Altogether, the school has about 35 buses that stop there daily, she said. Southside is one of the district’s bus hubs, where students are dropped off to catch other buses to different schools.
“Looking at it from a cost-effectiveness view, we’d like to hope that we can do away with a route or two in the area, if the students are going to utilize the (sidewalks for) walking,” Wetherald said.
County Road 200S and Spear Street, which runs in front of the school to connect with 200S, experience a lot of traffic congestion, Wetherald said. The improvements will mean a better traffic flow for parents driving their children to school and for the buses.
The project will include a sidewalk on the north side of 200S, and the developers of Shadow Creek Farms are installing a sidewalk from their subdivision that will end across the road from the school.
Hayward said the project’s timeline is being scheduled to minimize the effect for the school.
“We think the timing is just right that we are going to infringe on the tail end of the school year this year,” Hayward said. “And knock out almost all of the work in the summer and have it opened to traffic again by the time school opens in the fall.”
At least part of the road will be closed during the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair in July. Larry Fisher, president of the fair board, said he is hopeful that there will be at least one lane open on 200S during the fair. Although most of the fair traffic enters and leaves on Spear Street, 200S is a major exit for fair traffic.
The finished road will be a benefit to the fairgrounds, but “in the meantime, it is certainly going to be a detriment to us,” Fisher said.
He estimated the traffic problems will be the biggest headache for this year’s fair. However, there also will be parking changes, because the fairgrounds lost about four acres of parking to the road project and two rows of trees.
Hayward said the city will work with the fair board and the contractor to minimize the effects for the fair. Fisher said he would like the city to install a temporary caution light at the intersection of State Road 11 and Spear Road during the construction to help regulate traffic going into the fairgrounds. If necessary, fair planners will consider making Spear Street a two-way street during the fair. Normally, it is made one-way traffic during the event.
Although, 200S is a county road, much of it is within the city limits. The city limits stretch south along State Road 11 — or Jonesville Road — in a thin line, encompassing only the width of the road and bypassing Garden City, before swelling again to take in the school and nearby subdivisions.
County commissioners have suggested that 200S could eventually be part of a long-term project to create a southern bypass that cuts across most of the county, much like County Road 600N does from Hope to Taylorsville. Hayward said there has been some initial discussions of extending the road to the east to connect with Gladstone Avenue.