By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
Contractors will have about a month to submit bids for the East Main Street project after the New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety approved plans for the improvements Tuesday.
Notable among the updates to the project: An extra foot of space between the medians and the traffic lanes has been included in the plan. The lanes will technically still be 11 feet wide, but there will be a two-foot offset from the stripe and the walls protecting the medians.
Also, as previously announced by the city, about 60 damaged or dying trees will be removed from along Main Street and replaced with 160 new trees.
Improvements will stretch from East Fifth Street to Vincennes Street, as the city hopes to have the project completed by late summer.
“It’s not like the other projects that we’re working on, as this one will be extremely visible from the start,” Mayor Jeff Gahan said Tuesday. “The aesthetics will be completely improved, there will be traffic-calming measures in place, and the project will be celebrating that whole residential district on Main Street that many people see when they come to New Albany.”
The project, estimated to cost about $1.8 million, is primarily intended to slow down traffic and to transform Main Street from a highway-type of route to an urban street. The design for the project originated from a plan garnered by the Main Street Preservation Association in 2006.
The city was placed in a position to address Main Street when the Indiana Department of Transportation relinquished about 4.5 miles of Ind. 111 to the city in 2010. The portion included East Main Street to State Street, as the state paid New Albany to maintain the roadway.
State funds remaining from the relinquishment of Ind. 111 will pay for the bulk of the project, according to city officials. The city also anticipates a an additional $500,000 grant from INDOT to pay for the rest as the result of prior discussions with the state when New Albany agreed to manage the road.
John Rosenbarger, director of public facilities projects for the city, said New Albany hasn’t received final confirmation of the grant from INDOT, but added “it looks like it’s headed in the right direction.”
The New Albany Tree Board approved the removal of the trees along the 12-block stretch of Main Street the project will cover.
As for the additional distance between the medians and the traffic lanes, some semitrailer drivers complained about the reduced width of the lanes during an August public hearing on the project. Rosenbarger said the additional foot of space added between the medians and the lanes was a requirement because of the walls being installed around the medians.
He doesn’t anticipate the 30 mph speed limit on Main Street will be changed, but added it could be revisited in the future.
“The goal with the median and the [traffic] pop outs is that the new design would physically inhibit anything above 30 mph,” Rosenbarger said.
Some residents have raised concerns about vibrations caused during construction, specifically worrying about the damage such movements could cause to their properties. The area contains several historic houses and mansions, and is in a preservation district. Rosenbarger said some restrictions on construction work have been included in the design to reduce the amount of vibrations.
The board of works set Jan. 21 as the deadline for bids to be submitted for the project, and Rosenbarger anticipated a contractor will be chosen by the end of next month.
Lighting features, historical markers and new curbs and sidewalks are also called for in the plan. Gahan said the project will improve a focal point of New Albany.
“I’m eager to get started,” he said.
ON THE WEB
• For updates and detailed description of the project, visit the website eastmainstreetproject.com