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Work in progress: Project straightens, widens busy road

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People who live along Carr Hill Road already can see a safer road taking shape after nearly four months of construction.

But they are eager for the work, which is past the halfway mark, to be finished.

Since April 7, only residents have been allowed to navigate the construction zone to reach their homes.

They have endured the additional inconvenience of telephone, electrical and water outages, when utility lines were mistakenly cut as road crews carved out Carr Hill Road’s new path.

Carr Hill begins at Jonathan Moore Pike and travels south between Menards and Walmart before cutting west and becoming Youth Camp Road near Harrison Lake.

Drivers have known Carr Hill as a narrow, twisting rural road that didn’t have safe pathways for bicyclists or pedestrians.

The reconstruction is smoothing out Carr Hill’s 90-degree turns to more gentle “S” curves, and the roadway will be significantly wider when construction is completed.

It also won’t have the dips and hills that often characterize country roads, and it will have a 5-foot-wide sidewalk.

When Carr Hill Road reopens Oct. 5, it will look more like a city street with curbs, gutters, storm sewers and bike lanes, said Brad Isaacs, a project engineer and supervisor with Janssen & Spaans Engineering Inc., which is overseeing the project for the city.

Personal experience

About the construction

September 2013

Crews relocate utilities in preparation for construction.

April 7, 2014

Carr Hill Road closes for crews to begin construction.

Oct. 5, 2014

Carr Hill Road will reopen on the intermediate completion date. Before the road reopens to traffic, crews will install sidewalks and residential driveways and will pave the road.

April 5, 2015

The project will be fully completed. The road will remain open while crews finish planting trees and grass and other landscaping work, along with final grading.

Increasing traffic load

Despite being an arterial county road, Carr Hill Road has seen an increasing amount of traffic over the years.

In 2004, the portion of the road west of the I-65 overpass saw an average of 1,820 cars per day, and the portion east of the overpass saw 1,205 on average, according to city traffic counts.

By 2008, vehicular traffic had increased to 2,439. And city officials expect that number to grow by another 40 percent over the next 14 years. But the road hadn’t been repaired in several years and was narrow, twisting and generally unsafe.

The city opted to fully reconstruct the road between the I-65 overpass and Terrace Lake Road, adding curbs, gutters, sidewalks and a bike line and widening traffic lanes. The county added curbs and widened the road by a few feet on a small stretch of road east of the overpass.

Lori Fowler, who lives with her family on 1.6 acres of land along one of the former 90-degree curves, said drivers frequently misjudged the sharp turns, especially when the road was covered with snow or ice. They would then end up in one of the deep ditches on the side of the road.

Just encountering another driver on the narrow roadway could be tricky, said Beverly Denney, who lives on Pine Hill Drive, less than 50 yards from the construction.

That wasn’t as much of a problem when she and her husband moved there nearly 23 years ago, Denney said, but the road is much busier now.

City traffic counts show that, from 2004 to 2008, vehicular traffic on the road increased more than 60 percent. And city officials expect traffic to increase by another 40 percent by 2028.

Residents have dealt with periodic utility outages since construction began. Road crews accidentally cut electricity or telephone lines at least five times, Fowler said.

Residents say they have had to follow boil-water orders six times — twice when Southwestern Bartholomew Water Corp. had scheduled maintenance on the water lines and four times when construction crews inadvertently cut the water lines while working.

Denney said that, while she usually can work from home, she has had to go into the office more often because the work affected the cable lines, slowing down and sometimes cutting off her Internet access.

While there have been some tough moments, Fowler said, the workers have been nice and have done their best to smooth things over.

“It’s better now than it was in the beginning,” she said, adding that the situation improved as crews got into the rhythm of the work.

Overall, the project has been bigger than Fowler expected.

She said she understands that it was needed and that the road already looks straighter and safer. But she hopes that “this is going to do it for Carr Hill.”

Denney also looks forward to the new road.

“It’s going to be really nice to have it wider and smoother and less curvy,” she said.

More than halfway there

Isaacs said neighbors have been very supportive and cooperative. As project engineer, he said, it’s his job to keep the neighbors smiling and field any complaints they may have.

The half-mile portion of road included in the project already is more fluid and safer, Isaacs said.

And despite rainy days and some hiccups with utility lines, Isaacs said, construction is moving along smoothly.

Based on payouts to contractors, the work is about 55 to 60 percent complete. Dave O’Mara Contractor Inc. of North Vernon and four of six subcontractors have received more than $825,000 of the $1.5 million contract so far.

Design plans for the new roadway called for an 11-foot-wide lane for vehicular travel and a 3-foot-wide bike lane on each side of the roadway, compared with a road that was 18 feet wide in total.

After moving utilities last fall, Isaacs said, crews have relocated a portion of the road to remove two 90-degree curves and have shaved down a high hill on another section of the road, work that greatly improved sight lines for drivers, especially for people leaving their driveways or neighborhoods.

Drivers ignore barricades

The new, wider road will safely sustain the increasing traffic for at least 25 years before needing major maintenance, Isaacs said.

The road also was designed to handle heavier loads of traffic as the population on Columbus’ west side continues to grow.

Crews have installed all of the storm sewers and 14 inches of subgrade treatment, which will serve as a strong base for the asphalt pavement, he said. They also have installed curbs and gutters between the I-65 overpass and Countryside Lane, he said.

Crews now will begin installing curbs from Countryside Lane west to Terrace Lake Road, Isaacs said, to be completed by the end of next week. After they finish that work, he said, they will put down the first layer of asphalt, install retaining walls and sidewalks, put in residential drive approaches, seed the site and put down nursery sodding before reopening the road, he said.

Until the road reopens, Isaacs said, there are other safety concerns.

Part of Isaac’s job as project supervisor is to deal with people who aren’t residents or doing business on the road but who decide to use the road as a shortcut despite construction.

Before he was able to get some Indiana State troopers to sit at either end of the road, Isaacs said, it wasn’t unusual to see people disregarding the construction.

One day after finishing up work, he and others remained on site for some time and saw 57 cars go around the blockades.

That number is lower now, he said, but even one car is enough to cause a safety concern.

Isaacs asked drivers to remember that the road is closed to all but residents and emergency vehicles until Oct. 5 — and that anyone violating that rule risks a $300 fine.

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