News and Tribune

May 23, 2013

Resident questions how public will be informed of Main Street plan

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY —

A frequent attendee of municipal meetings, local resident J.B. Hawkins again presented the New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety with concerns on Tuesday. 

Hawkins — who has approached the board about code violations, road conditions and semi-truck traffic in recent months — tackled the proposed Main Street improvement project this week. 

A Main Street homeowner, Hawkins questioned the board as to how the public will be kept aware of the design of the project as it moves forward. 

During a public forum on the project Monday, Hawkins said he had concerns over how the construction would affect the historic houses along Main Street. 

He also pressed administration officials as to why federal funding wasn’t sought for the project. 

Engineers and city officials said that while the design is being completed over the next three months, they will attempt to keep the public informed through emails, press releases and by possibly posting the plans online. 

Hawkins said officials have said in the past that the public would be involved in shaping projects, but that didn’t happen. 

“My concern ultimately is that significant issues will not be addressed in a substantive way,” said Hawkins during the board of works meeting. 

The administration’s plan is largely based on a Main Street Preservation Association design from 2006. 

The project is estimated to cost up to $1.79 million, and would include the addition of raised medians on Main Street between East Fifth Street and Vincennes Street as a way to calm traffic. 

The bulk of the project will be funded with money New Albany received from the state for assuming maintenance of Ind. 111 from Mount Tabor Road to State Street, according to city officials. 

Though the road is no longer a state highway, the Indiana Department of Transportation pledged an additional $500,000 toward improving Main Street when the maintenance deal with New Albany was reached in 2010. 

John Rosenbarger, director of public facilities projects for the city, said INDOT has been notified of the Main Street project and of New Albany’s aim to garner the $500,000 pledge. 

Rosenbarger said Tuesday the city didn’t seek federal funds for the improvements in part because of the project scope. 

“Main Street is not a real small-ticket project, but we’re using the federal aid money on the $3 million to $5 million” road improvements, he said. 

Federal grants typically require just a 20 percent match by the city, meaning 80 percent of a project is covered by federal funds. 

The pot for federal funds for road projects was also recently cut by 20 percent in the Southern Indiana and Louisville region, Rosenbarger continued. 

“We’ve pretty much maxed out the federal funding capabilities that apply to the Southern Indiana portion” of the region, he said. 

INDOT’s $500,000 funding pledge could be used toward a federal match, but the agreement didn’t require a grant to be obtained, Rosenbarger said. 

The city will also likely relay information about the project to the public through the Main Street Preservation Association. 

The board of works is the city body that will oversee the project, and it meets weekly at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays.