Friday, September 03, 2004

US 50 Collaborative Gets Mixed Messages in Update from INDOT Officials

On Sept 2nd INDOT representatives were at a meeting of the collaborative on the US 50 Corridor.
Steve Smith (INDOT) gave an update on the progress (or LACK of progress) on the study.
Joe Hall and Jim Ude of the INDOT district office in Seymour were also present.
Apparently, SIECO/Strand came in with an estimate over $300,000 for a corridor study, when only $250,000 was granted. SIECO/Strand is now going over the scope of work to see what they can eliminate to get down to $250,000. [Note: One might wonder why INDOT is not doing this and rebidding the project. It looks like SIECO is telling INDOT what the project will be rather than INDOT being in charge.]
Governor Kiernan announced the $250,000 for the US 50 study in March 2004. When SIECO/Strand was selected, contract negotiations began and we were told it takes the attorney general’s office 8-12 months to review the contracts. [NOTE: One could wonder how these BIDS go out- don’t they have standard government contracts?] The head of INDOT (Bryan Nichol), by the way, has a law degree.
Notice to proceed with the STUDY won’t occur till Spring 2005.
They have saved time on the environmental assessments by eliminating some of the local input.
A CAC (Community Advisory Committee) of local representatives will be used for feedback and advice. Apparently, this is after they decide what SIECO/Strand wants to study. They will have public information meetings and a project website.
It takes 18 months to do a study. The study won’t be finished until late 2006. The actual work will take another 6-10 years. [Note: Was it our imaginations, or did the widening of US 50 for riverboat traffic proceed far faster than that?]
There were several things they don’t think they can do in the study - no microsimulation, no intersection study for 275, no Tanner’s Creek Bridge, etc. [Note: Just what is costing $250,000?]
When asked if they could combine the connector study dollars with this to achieve the needed scope, we were told that it was IMPOSSIBLE, because the money is from different accounts. [Note: It is interesting that our tax dollars get all these rules applied to them when we are trying to get them back to be used in our own community!]
Aurora Mayor Don Hastings delineated the impact that the choke points on US 50 had on Aurora residents and businesses. It’s killing their economic development.
Scott Foreman, Dillsboro concurred.
Tom Steidel, City Manager of Lawrenceburg talked at length about the Tanner’s Creek Bridge issues and needing a second entryway into the community to be considered in the event that bridge gives out or is blocked by some disaster, thus cutting off access to the hospital area, etc.
Joe Hall of INDOT gave some ideas for short-term improvements and stated that he fought and has the scars to prove it to keep the short-term solutions in the proposal. [Note: Why would he have to fight for something that common sense indicates is necessary?]
Commissioner Dan Batta questioned if INDOT considered the bridge critical. He said he couldn’t tell from INDOT’s response, if they understood what Lawrenceburg, Aurora, and Greendale were concerned about.
Tom Steidel indicated that Lawrenceburg could become involved in short-term solutions and right of way improvements, because they own the right of way.
Steve Smith stated that the answers you get depend on the questions you ask. He said also that if we have consensus on a solution then maybe they could use a different approach and go straight to engineering and an environmental study.
Lawrenceburg Mayor Bill Cunningham discussed some bridge options at Center Street and maybe on Industrial Drive. He thought that Lawrenceburg would be building their own bridge because they have the money and the county doesn’t. [Note: The county is in charge of all bridges in the county and municipalities unless they are federally funded]
When asked if they would consider the locals in their scope of services, Steve Smith said yes. But that would be after SIECO/Strand is finished with them and INDOT has reviewed them. [Note: So what’s the point?]

[Note: In the end it seems that INDOT improvements will take too long to be effective. Input from the locals is negligible and essentially token.
Sadly, the synergy that could be achieved by a new county master plan, the start-up of the DCEDI (economic development initiative), and a collaborative group of governmental officials from the cities, towns, and county will be thwarted by the bureaucratic maze and inertia of INDOT funding mechanisms.
It would seem that we would have to solve our own problems and look for funding sources to accommodate them.]

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