County, town make extensive paving plans

Brown County plans to pave more roads this year than it normally could in three to eight years.

The town of Nashville is paving or repairing more than a third of its roads as well, and the state is working on roads and bridges in five other areas of the county.

In all, we’re talking about nearly 80 miles of road work.

“It’s going to be a busy summer with a lot of traffic going everywhere,” Brown County Highway Superintendent Mike Magner said.

“It’s going to be a pain — I’m not saying that it’s not — but we’re going to end up with some awfully nice roads when it’s over,” county commissioner Diana Biddle said.

Here’s a look at what’s being done, where, and how local officials suggest you get around it.

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COUNTY ROADS

About 65 of the county’s 200 miles of paved roads could get repaved this year.

On the list: Valley Branch, Plum Creek, Raspberry Lane, Sherwood Forest Drive, Peoga Road, Oak Ridge, Carmel Ridge, Bellsville Pike, Helmsburg Road, Greasy Creek, Christianburg Road, Grandview Road, County Road 400, Sawmill Road, Sweetwater Trail, Salt Creek Road, T.C. Steele/Crooked Creek, 0.85 mile of Nineveh Road, 1.5 miles of Mt. Liberty and a half-mile of Three Story Hill. Bids were accepted last week on the first 10 roads labeled on the map above, plus a quarter-mile of Bellsville Pike.

How it all happened: In total, the county has about $3.5 million to work with. Brown County won a $1 million Community Crossings road grant last fall and put up $1 million more in match money by increasing county wheel tax rates, dipping into its rainy day fund and using a special distribution of tax dollars from the state. That $2 million is almost enough to repave all of Salt Creek Road, Sweetwater Trail, T.C. Steele Road and the paved part of Crooked Creek Road. The other work is being funded by a road loan and the county’s motor vehicle highway fund, which comes from gas and taxes and license and registration fees.

Valley Branch, finally? Yes, it’s really going to happen. Magner said the Indiana Department of Transportation has committed money to repave the entire road, two years after it was used as a detour for the State Road 135 South/46 East bridge project. He estimated it would cost $400,000 just to redo this one road, which is full of chuckholes and loose gravel.

Timing: It’s not certain when all this work will start. Magner said he’d like it to start soon after school lets out, which is at the end of May.

Getting around: For some of the larger county projects, like Sweetwater Trail and Salt Creek, Magner anticipates routing traffic along other major feeder roads nearby, such as Clay Lick and Gatesville roads. The state road and bridge work also will require some county roads to be used as detours, including Dubois Ridge, Jackson Creek, Lick Creek, Three Story Hill, Houston and Christianburg roads. Railroad Road is being used as one now to get around the two small bridges being rebuilt just south of the tracks on State Road 135 North. “We’re going to do the best job we can to post them all,” Magner told the county commissioners — and to try to keep them posted as long as people don’t tear the signs down because they don’t want people driving past their houses, he said.

STATE WORK

Four bridges on the Brown County portion of State Road 135, two others in Morgan and Jackson counties on the same highway, one large bridge in the area of Yellowwood State Forest, and seven miles of roads in the state forest and Brown County State Park are on INDOT’s work list for 2017.

135 bridges: In Morgan, Brown and Jackson counties, State Road 135 is going to be closed in one or more places until November, Magner said. It’s been closed just south of Railroad Road in Bean Blossom since the first week of April, and it’ll stay closed until around the first week of August. The state also has plans to rebuild two bridges on 135 South in Van Buren Township: one just east of the junction with the west end of Hamilton Creek Road, and another between Spurgeon’s Corner and the junction of 135 South and Becks Grove Road. Christianburg Road and Houston Road are possible detours, Magner said; so is Bob Allen Road if you don’t mind driving through a creek. Two bridges in southern Morgan County and two in the Freetown area in Jackson County also are scheduled to be replaced sometime between May and November. For the Morgan County bridges, Lick Creek and Three Story Hill are possible detours.

State park: A little over 4 miles of the state park’s main road are being repaved from the west gate entrance to Horseman’s Camp Road to the Abe Martin Lodge entrance, but the road will remain open, INDOT said. Work is to be finished by the end of May.

Yellowwood area: The bridge over Salt Creek at Yellowwood, Green Valley and Dubois Ridge roads will close June 1 and reopen in November, Magner said. He said anyone wishing to access Yellowwood State Forest this summer might do best to approach it from the north end, as road closings will be “spotty” on Yellowwood and Yellowwood Lake roads. INDOT and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources are collaborating on this project to replace the bridge and widen and resurface the access road to the forest. A second project phase, north of the main boat dock at Yellowwood Lake, is on track to start in 2018, Magner said.

TOWN STREETS

The town is paving 4.7 of its 11 miles of streets this year, thanks to a $172,000 Community Crossings state matching grant it won last fall. In recent years it has only been able to make emergency fixes because of lack of money, Town Utility Coordinator Sean Cassiday said.

To be paved: Hawthorne Drive, Willow Street, West Chestnut, East Washington, Old School Way from Main to Washington, West and East Gould between Jefferson and the library, Ridgeway Drive, Treetop Lane, and South Drive from Park Lane to Parkview Road. Other roads will get sealant work to prevent further damage. Cassiday does not plan to close any roads, working on one side at a time instead.

The big project: The town is working with INDOT to widen Hawthorne Drive at the intersection with State Road 46. Another turn lane will be added and the bumpy right turn from the highway into the shopping area will be redone. Town leaders would like to see sidewalks extended from the senior apartments toward McDonald’s and the stores in Salt Creek Plaza, but Cassiday said new sidewalks can’t be built with this state grant money, so the town is looking elsewhere in its budget.

Timing: Cassiday said the town would like to coordinate its street work with the county’s road paving because they’re likely to use the same contractor. His best guess on when it might start was the end of May or first of June.

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Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.