News and Tribune

December 24, 2013

HILL: It’s getting congested around Utica

Local guest columnist

— As a long-time and very proud resident of the Utica area I once again take computer in hand for a needed update on why so few Uticians have been seen in public lately.

Certainly the fact that Utica Pike remains closed due to new bridge construction over Lacassagne Creek despite the fact a screaming orange sign at the edge of the worksite proclaims “ROAD CLOSED STARTING SEPT 9th FOR 90 DAYS” may be a factor as we all roll on toward, ahh, New Year’s Eve.

Yes, cold weather has been a real issue with construction, the December monsoon rains have been a bit of a surprise, and gravel and cement trucks have recently been seen on site, but the sign’s screaming orange math still doesn’t compute.

Indeed there are those — myself included — who firmly believe that with all the construction projects and family-related Christmas goings on in December we need a national referendum to extend the month to 90 days and get rid of August and February.

Not only would that forever banish the most worthless months from the calendar it might allow the bridge construction crew to at least get finished within December — maybe by Dec. 85th.

Other ongoing issues keeping Uticians pretty much out of sight lately — not all east-end Bridge related — include morning commuter lines along Middle Road that now extend almost to the George Rogers Clark homestead in Clarksville, the continued and economically necessary assault of Port Road by grain and Federal Express trucks, and some interesting rerouting and bending of Ind. 62 as it is apparently being prepared for a slalom course for the 2018 Hoosier Winter Olympics.

Plus the formerly four-lane Ind. 265 [to become Interstate 265] continues to be squeezed into a one-lane cow path and it now appears that someone is intermittently dynamiting holes near the formerly bucolic Utica-Sellersburg Road, which itself will be closed for six months, or so, next year to be transformed into an interstate overpass.

Let’s all just hope its completion date isn’t pegged for any time early next December.

Possibly contributing to future traffic issues were the recent newspaper announcements that Duke Energy has awarded the River Ridge Development Authority a $30,000 grant to develop 1,000-acre “megasites” to pursue monster manufacturing companies.

This does not include the already zoned 1,730-acre automotive megasite in River Ridge already zoned for heavy industrial use between Charlestown State Park and what had been the pretty much lonely, little used and dead-end Old Salem Road — the site of the first Hoosier exit off the new East End Bridge — and barely a half-mile from greater downtown Utica.

Some help may be on the way, however, with the announcement of a new “heavy haul” road from the Port of Indiana through River Ridge to Inc. 62 — the precise route yet to be made public.

Certainly folks up here have always supported the east-end bridge, and are happy for the growth of the Clark Maritime Centre and River Ridge. The town of Utica has been doing a lot of planning to deal with all this and will certainly benefit from the inevitable growth.

We’re also wondering what the local traffic engineers and city planners are up to these days; do they really understand what traffic will be like in the next five or ten years?

Jobs is jobs — but progress must be controlled; we’d also like to occasionally be able to get out of town.

Adding insult to possible injury was news that the Jeffersonville City Council — as has become the habit of governments everywhere — recently approved multimillion dollar tax abatements for a software company to locate at North Port Business Centre which will supposedly add 120 jobs in five years — if they can get to work.

When you do all the math — and I don’t mean screaming orange — local citizens will be paying tax dollars and tolls to pay for roads and bridges to get to work at a profitable company that just had its taxes abated — for 10 years.

 Such citizens — already burdened with mundane stuff like paying mortgages and feeding their families — might also consider asking their council representatives for tax abatement, but I’m not holding my breath.

Anyway, Merry Christmas from up here in Utica — where we find it especially important now that Santa Claus can fly.

— Bob Hill, Utica