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June 14, 2014

GROWING PAINS: New Albany says ends will justify the means of Main Street work

NEW ALBANY — The situation isn’t ideal, but city officials said they have tried to mitigate the inconveniences to business owners and residents during the East Main Street improvement project.

However, the scope of the work — which includes the installation of new sidewalks, removal of trees and construction of a median between East Fifth Street and Vincennes Street — has proved troublesome to some. “It’s been very frustrating for us,” said Steve Goodman, co-owner of Culbertson West, which is located at 904 E. Main St.

Weddings and receptions at the facility are booked months in advance, and Goodman said many clients have been disappointed by the state of East Main Street when they arrive for their ceremonies.

“To be in the business we’re in, it couldn’t be any worse,” he said.

Communication has “really been nonexistent” between property owners and the city when it comes to the project and how it has affected the Culbertson West, other establishments and residents, Goodman continued.

The city held public meetings about the project prior to launching construction, and a website has been maintained with weekly updates on the improvements.

“We’re doing the best we can and trying to address everything that’s feasible,” said Wes Christmas, vice president of the city-hired engineering firm Clark-Dietz.

It’s a sizable project with many improvements, and such work will cause disruptions, he conceded.

Once the project is completed, people will be pleased by the improvements to the road and sidewalks, city officials said.

“I would say there’s not excessive disturbance, not more than what we’d contemplated,” said John Rosenbarger, supervisor of public works projects for the city and a resident of Main Street.

The contractor — MAC Construction and Excavating — has been asked to make sure the Culbertson West is accessible at all times, and they have responded, Rosenbarger continued.

From the onset of the project, city officials warned the improvements would be messy at times.

“When you put in new things like water mains and drainage systems, you have to get below the earth and that creates some dirt, and creates some dust,” he said.

The construction contract spans for six months, and that was because the city wanted the roadway impacted for as short of a period as possible, he continued.

Substantial completion of the project is slated for the middle of August.

Located at 914 E. Main St., the Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site depends on tourists for customers. While the staff is supportive of the project, it has caused some confusion for people trying to find the Culbertson Mansion, and given others reason to pause.

“Anyone who knows anything about New Albany right now is staying away from Main Street,” said Jessica Stavros, site manager at the Culbertson Mansion.

But she emphasized the MAC crew has been amicable and informative. The project will improve East Main Street and the pains of the construction are to be expected, she added.

“When you completely redesign a main thoroughfare, there will be disruptions,” Stavros said.

The state paid New Albany to take over a stretch of Ind. 111 including the East Main Street span, and that money is the primary funding source for the project.  

Rosenbarger said the goal is to upgrade the area, and the city’s intention is to keep the disruptions as minimal as possible until the work is completed.

As for concerns that traffic will be diverted to other city streets once the project is finished, Rosenbarger said the lanes will be 11-foot in width, which will narrow them slightly but not enough to cause a serious shift in routing.

“Our thinking is that it won’t deflect any traffic off of Main Street when it’s completed,” he said.

The goal is to slow down traffic on the street, which is different than diverting it, he continued.

As for aesthetics issues, Rosenbarger said it would have been preferable to move all the utilities in the improvement area underground, but it could have tripled the cost of the more than $2 million project.

Some businesses along Main Street near East Third and Bank streets were affected last week by a gas line replacement project performed by Vectren Energy. That project is separate from the improvements being implemented by the city.

For updates on road closures, a description of the project and contact information for officials, visit the website www.eastmainstreetproject.com

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Upcoming closure

• East Main Street will be closed from East Ninth Street to East 13th Street from Monday to Friday to nonlocal traffic for stormwater sewer installation.

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Sierra Proctor, 13, New Albany, looks through a clothing rack at the Clarksville Salvation Army Thrift Store along Little League Boulevard on Wednesday morning. Students enrolled in any level of schooling in Floyd, Clark, Washington, and Scott counties were eligible for the back-to-school clothing giveaway.

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