Two major Bluffton projects coming together
June 20, 2012
The power lines look like a classic study in perspective, but they also illustrate the expanded width of the right of way for Adams Street. The poles on the left show the width of the old right of way; the poles on the right show what the road’s new right of way will be. The pavement will cover where the poles used to be. (Photo by Dave Schultz)
By DAVE SCHULTZ
Now that the paperwork snafus are apparently in the past, the Adams Street improvement project is moving ahead.
The estimated $3.65 million project — resurfacing what had been Wells County Road 100E on Bluffton’s far west side — is slated to be part of the Indiana Department of Transportation’s bid letting on July 11. Some work could start, therefore, before the end of the year.
Industrial development on Bluffton’s west side has meant increased truck traffic on Adams Street. When the road was built, it handled only residential and agricultural traffic; traffic from tractor-trailers and other delivery vehicles, plus the increased traffic involved with employees arriving and department for work, have reduced Adams Street to a washboard.
The city of Bluffton has been saving money for a local match for the improvement of Adams Street, as it is eligible to be considered a “federal aid” project. That means the city needs to provide 20 percent of the final amount.
Acquiring the rights of way were a difficult proposition, especially as the number of parcels dwindled down to the final few. Some corporate entities were in favor of the improved roads, but getting home offices to sign off on the sale or donation of the rights of way threatened to delay the process. At one point, the city actually purchased a house in foreclosure to acquire the necessary right of way. The plan was to sell the house minus the land needed for the right of way.
However, as it turned out, the acquisition of the rights of way didn’t sit exactly correct with a representative of the federal government. Toby Steffen, a Bluffton-area resident who is working with the city on behalf of the Butler Fairman and Seufert engineering firm, worked to answer those problems, and his work was eventually successful, but the questions delayed the bid process from earlier this year until July.
Butler Fairman and Seufert is the company that is doing the planning work on Adams Street on the city’s behalf.
Both Steffen and Doug Sundling, the city’s consultant for planning and infrastructure issues, told the Bluffton Board of Works and Safety at back-to-back meetings in May that the project was a “go.” Sundling said in late May that utility companies were starting to work on relocating lines that would be required for the road improvements.
Before the paperwork problems, Steffen had said the project could go out for bids in January with construction starting in March or April. Assuming the same timeline for construction holds up, work could start in September or October.
Mayor Ted Ellis has said the completed highway will be what INDOT calls a “Super 2” road surface, similar to what Ind. 124 looks like as it occupies Adams Street/Wells County Road 100E north of the Lancaster Street intersection.
Interurban Trail in right-of-way stage
If all goes well, pedestrians and bicyclists could be using a pathway along North Main Street/Ind. 1 by the end of 2013.
The Interurban Trail involves acquiring rights of way on the west side of the highway for approximately two miles — from the pedestrian bridge across the Wabash River to the intersection of Monroe Street/Wells County Road 200N — and it could be constructed late next year. The intersection of Main and Monroe streets is a strong retail area, with Walmart, Lowes, and Walgreens and several other businesses located there.
Toby Steffen of the Butler Fairman and Seufert engineering firm, which is coordinating the project on Bluffton’s behalf, presented a timeline to the Bluffton Board of Public Works and Safety in May. According to his paperwork, the necessary rights of way — from what Steffen said were 46 or 47 property owners — would be purchased by April of 2013, about the time the final plans for the project will be set. The Indiana Department of Transportation should review the plans by May of 2013 and the project could be ready to go at the end of July.
Steffen indicated that the trail — which will be wider than a common sidewalk — could be completed, weather permitting, by the end of the year.
The lack of sidewalks along Ind. 1 means that pedestrians have to walk across lawns alongside the west side of the highway. It also forces individuals on bicycles or wheelchairs onto the street, Bluffton’s busiest thoroughfare.