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September 21, 2013

Blair: Mt. Tabor project should be redesigned

Some New Albany council members say improvements are too much

NEW ALBANY — New Albany City Councilman Scott Blair wants a roundabout removed from the planned Mt. Tabor Road improvements, and other city officials are calling for the reach of the $3.9 million project to be scaled back.

Blair — who represents District 6 which includes Mt. Tabor Road — said this week the project as planned is “too overwhelming.”

The roundabout proposed for the intersection of Mt. Tabor Road and Klerner Lane is obtrusive to property owners and should probably be removed from the improvement plan, he said.

“I look at this project and I think about all we’re doing there and the cost of it, and I just think it’s too much,” Blair said.

Mt. Tabor Road from Grant Line Road to Charlestown Road would be upgraded through the project. Beyond the roundabout, the design calls for new sidewalks, drainage improvements and widening of the roadway.

Though 80 percent of the project will be funded through a federal grant, Blair said $3.9 million is still too much to spend on 1.1 miles of roadway. He suggested a sidewalk should only be added on the south side of Mt. Tabor Road, as he said there aren’t enough houses on the north side to justify the added expense.

“I think it needs to be redesigned,” Blair said of the project.

During a public meeting attended by more than 100 residents last week, several people spoke out against the project — especially the roundabout. Council members said this week they received phone calls after the meeting from residents opposed to the improvements.

“It was 99 percent people opposed to the roundabout, and these are the people it will affect directly,” Councilwoman Shirley Baird said.

Council members also were critical of the city’s only existing roundabout on Daisy Lane.

“The only reason it works is because people stop,” Councilman Dan Coffey said. “If you don’t stop, you’re going to get hit.”

Councilwoman Diane McCartin-Benedetti said she met this week with Mayor Jeff Gahan over concerns residents expressed to her about the project.

On Friday, Gahan stressed the project is a preliminary phase, and that no design plans have been finalized.

Public comment will continue through Thursday, Sept. 26, on the project, and the administration will weigh input from residents and city officials before moving ahead with final engineering, he continued.

“When we introduced it to the public a few weeks ago, I felt very strongly about it, and I still feel it’s a very strong project,” Gahan said. “We have plenty of time to have more discussions. Federal aid projects typically take a long time.”

A best case scenario would see the city launch the Mt. Tabor project in 2015.

Gahan said it’s too early to say if the roundabout will be removed from the project, or to announce any specific modifications to the proposal.

“But I don’t want anybody to think we’re moving full steam ahead with what we offered at the public meeting,” he said.

Gahan described the public input and the council discourse over the project as a healthy step in the process.

“It’s only natural to have a lot of discussion any time you’re talking about these types of projects,” he said.

And Gahan expects more opinions to come to the forefront as the city moves forward with other project. In addition to the Main Street and Mt. Tabor Road projects, the city is also on a path to improve McDonald Lane through a federal aid effort.

“This is all very much exciting for the city of New Albany because we have a lot of things that are happening with our roads and our sidewalks and changes that we’re making to make the city more pedestrian-friendly and safer for our drivers,” Gahan said.

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