News and Tribune

September 11, 2013

Public not sold on Mt. Tabor project

Gahan: Pedestrian, traffic safety will improve

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY —

Tuesday’s public hearing on proposed Mt. Tabor Road improvements pitted a city administration supportive of the $3.9 million in upgrades against residents who said the project goes too far. 

More than 100 people attended the mandated hearing, and most that spoke said they opposed the project as planned. 

Of particular concern for many residents who live near the proposed project area is the planned roundabout, which would be installed in place of the four-way stop that is currently at the intersection of Mt. Tabor Road and Klerner Lane. 

Scott Whalen said the city would have to take 45 feet of right of way off his property to make room for the roundabout and would limit the space near his house. 

“It would be six feet from my garage,” Whalen said.

The city hired the firm Beam, Longest and Neff to design the project, and the roundabout has been suggested to improve traffic flow at the intersection. 

Ben Carnahan, the lead engineer with the firm, said roundabouts promote pedestrian safety, reduce time spent waiting in traffic at signals or stop signs and allow for green space at intersections. 

But other property owners whose land would be affected by the installation of the roundabout said it would bring traffic too close to their homes. 

Kelly Feiock said the amount of right of way the city would need for the roundabout impedes on the property owners that, like herself, live near the intersection. 

“They’re not going to do anything about the speed issue, and they’re creating an expense with the roundabout as well as causing more danger to our homes,” she said. 

But according to the Federal Highway Administration, roundabouts should be considered for federally funded projects such as Mt. Tabor Road, which will require only a 20 percent local match from the city. 

A location converted from a two-way stop to a roundabout can experience an 82 percent reduction in severe crashes and a 44 percent drop in all accidents, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

New Albany has one roundabout in the city on Daisy Lane. 

“They’re becoming more prevalent nationwide and statewide here in Indiana,” Carnahan said. 

Feiock led a group of residents who went door-to-door last Saturday speaking with other homeowners in the project area about the city’s plan. 

She said one of her neighbors hired an attorney to fight the project, and that others are concerned about additional property erosion and drainage issues they believe could be enhanced by the improvements. 

A required study for the project found no environmental impacts associated with the improvements, according to Elayna Stoner Phillips, environmental analyst with Beam, Longest and Neff. 

Other residents expressed disagreement with widening the road and adding sidewalks, as they said it would lead to the destruction of several trees and detract from privacy on their properties. 

The project would span about 1.1 miles between Grant Line and Charlestown roads. Both lanes of Mt. Tabor would be reconstructed and would be bordered by new curbs and gutters under the plan. 

A sidewalk and grass buffer would be installed on both sides of the road. 

The speed limit for the span would be 30 mph, and the single lane roundabout would have entry lanes of 14 feet in width. 

If a traffic signal were added at the intersection instead of a roundabout, Carnahan said it’s likely at least one house would have to be taken by the city for the project. 

As planned, no houses or commercial buildings would be purchased by the city for the improvements. More than 7 acres of permanent right of way and 2.43 acres of temporary right of way would be needed for the project as proposed. 

Mayor Jeff Gahan said the improvements will make Mt. Tabor road safer for motorists and pedestrians. 

“This is really an important project, I think, for everybody,” he said. 

Officials said the design is about 50 percent complete. Construction would start in 2015, per the estimated timeline for the project. 

The city will likely use tax-increment financing revenue to match the 80 percent federal grant. Several New Albany City Council members also attended Tuesday’s public hearing. 

Input on the project can be submitted through Sept. 26, and can be done by sending an e-mail to estoner@b-l-n.com.