News and Tribune

August 23, 2013

The state of Slate Run Road

Residents vocal about project, but status of Slate Run improvements uncertain

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — For Debbie Webb, the traffic speeding on Slate Run Road is about the only thing that seems to move quickly in New Albany.

She attended a public hearing about three years ago where city officials detailed a plan to improve Slate Run Road.

But besides design work, little has been done since.

“The city drags its feet on everything,” Webb said Tuesday. “Why would you call a public meeting and tell people this is in the works and then just let it die?”

Webb isn’t the only resident questioning the status of the estimated $4 million project. However, David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city, said this week a timeline for starting and completing the project hasn’t been set.

“We’re in the review process and we’re looking at the entire project scope,” Duggins said.

He provided a similar answer to New Albany City Councilwoman Diane McCartin-Benedetti last month when she questioned the status of the project.



Change in administration

Tax-increment financing funds were to be used to foot the upgrades, which puts the New Albany Redevelopment Commission in charge of the project.

The five-member commission includes three mayoral appointments.

In 2010, Mayor Doug England’s administration publicly backed the project, which was to include the installation of curbs, gutters and sidewalks along the bulk of Slate Run Road.

In 2010, the commission also OK’d adding bicycle lanes from Charlestown Road to Terrace Court along Slate Run Road.

In 2012, Mayor Jeff Gahan took office, and his administration has proposed its own plans and projects that would be footed with TIF funding.

At the top of the list were the quality-of-life projects approved by the city council earlier this year. The Charlestown Road TIF district will be tapped to pay back a portion of the debt on the projects, which include the addition of a multiuse recreational facility off Silver Street.



SCALED BACK PROJECT

Even if the entire project can’t be completed, the city should at least consider improving Slate Run Road in some form to make it safer for pedestrians and motorists, Benedetti said Tuesday.

“We would look at cutting back on the project dollar-wise just as long as we could get some kind of infrastructure on Slate Run to make it safer,” said Benedetti, who represents the area in question.

Bill Amerson has lived on a side street near Slate Run Road with his family for more than 20 years. Slate Run was once a “country road” that now encounters a much higher volume of use, he said.

There are other roads in the city that are also outdated, Amerson continued.

“The infrastructure hasn’t kept up with the growth of the community,” he said.



A SAFETY ISSUE

Around this time each year, hundreds of children begin their classes at Slate Run Elementary School.

Kate Caufield and her husband hoped their children would be able to walk to Slate Run Elementary when they moved to a street near the school.

But after realizing sidewalks are scarce along Slate Run Road, they quickly changed their plans.

“I can hear the kids playing on the playground at recess from my house, but I have no way to get [my children] there except to drive them,” Caufield said.

Webb raised her children in her house off Slate Run Road, and they also attended Slate Run Elementary.

“Of course I could never let them walk to school,” she said.

An avid jogger, Caufield finds herself driving to adjoining neighborhoods in order to find sidewalks where she can safely run.

“You’re kind of at the mercy of people letting you run through their yards” on Slate Run Road, she said.

Amerson’s wife also regularly walks for exercise, and like Caufield, she drives to another neighborhood where there are sidewalks to use.

Caufield has run in the street a few times, and said some motorists on Slate Run Road expressed their displeasure with having a pedestrian in the street.

“It’s frustrating and it’s dangerous,” she said.

Pedestrians and cyclists have little safe haven along Slate Run without using private properties or diving into a ditch when a car speeds by, residents said.

However, the safety concerns aren’t just limited to pedestrian use. Webb said she regularly sees vehicles speeding up and down the road, as she estimated some of the cars, trucks and motorcycles were traveling 50 to 60 mph, well above the 30 mph speed limit.

Whether it’s more stop signs, speed bumps or even a roundabout, Benedetti said more traffic-calming measures need to be added on the road.

The administration has projects planned to improve Main Street, Mount Tabor Road and another segment of Grant Line Road.

Amerson conceded he doesn’t know the traffic count for Slate Run Road, and can’t insist that a project for the street would be more important than upgrading other thoroughfares in the city.

But he added that Slate Run is a busy road that needs attention, and he credited Benedetti for raising the issue before the redevelopment commission last month.

“I would just hope the Slate Run Road project would not go to the back of the agenda,” Amerson said.