NEW ALBANY — Bidding for phase one of the Mount Tabor Road project begins Feb. 7 and work is slated to start in April or May. But there will be one major change moving forward. Phase one won't include the intersection of Mount Tabor Road and Klerner Lane.
The intersection was supposed to be part of phase one, but it has been removed by the city of New Albany pending more traffic studies, according to city engineer Larry Summers.
Phase one will include the stabilization and widening of Mount Tabor Road, along with the construction of gutters and sidewalks and making drainage improvements from Grant Line Road to about 200 feet shy of the Klerner Lane intersection. The cost of phase one is $4.5 million.
The planned traffic light for the intersection had drawn plenty of ire from people living in the area. Many of those residents attended a meeting Jan. 2 and submitted handwritten public comments to the Indiana Department of Transportation about the project. Residents want to keep the intersection a four-way stop while the city's plan was to add a traffic signal.
One of those residents, Scott Whalen, said he was happy to hear the city is taking a second look at its plans for the intersection.
"It is great news that the city has chosen to take another look at the traffic conditions at the intersection while they address the primary reason for the project — the hillside leading to Slate Run Creek," Whalen said via email. "As not only a stakeholder in the project, but also as an engineer, it is important to ensure the measured conditions represent the typical use. Performing the traffic counts for only 24 hours and while the intersection was the detour for McDonald Lane did not meet this criteria. The re-evaluation is what we at the corner have been asking for."
When the plan was originally announced, a roundabout was planned at the intersection, but it was removed when residents spoke out against it.
The city held the public information session on Jan. 2 in response to a recommendation from INDOT. After receiving complaints from residents, INDOT found that a document the city submitted for the project to be in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act showed that the project would remain a four-way stop even though it had changed those plans to the signalized intersection in 2016.
INDOT told the city that it should complete an additional information document and involve the public with its plans again to become NEPA complaint, which is a requirement for federally funded projects.
"Although I’m relieved to learn somebody finally heard the residents, it’s disheartening to know that all parties involved have already spent thousands of dollars on legal fees. Why did we (the local residents) have to reach out to the top state politicians and INDOT management for our own city to listen to us," resident Kelly Feiock said in an email. "We’re not shy and we’re willing to talk. All of this wasted time and money could have been avoided five years ago with open communication."
In 2013, the roadway experienced a failure along the north hillside near East Oakwood Drive. The city proceeded with an emergency, temporary repair at the road slide in order to keep the roadway safe. The Mount Tabor Road Improvement project will provide a long-term fix for the stabilization issues along Mount Tabor Road, according to a city news release.
The city will complete a new traffic survey and analysis regarding the reconstruction of the intersection at Mount Tabor Road and Klerner Lane at a later date.
“We will keep working to improve the roadway and infrastructure at Mt. Tabor Road,” Mayor Jeff Gahan said in a news release. “We welcome and appreciate the input and feedback from our neighbors and business owners."
Summers said the intersection would now be part of phase two, but there is no timetable yet for that work to begin. Phase two will be locally funded, while phase one will be 80 percent funded by the federal government. Phase two will be much more affordable, according to Summers, because the right of way has been procured, the signal at Charlestown Road will have been modified, and the wall will have been constructed as part of phase one.
"It's based on feedback and we want to get new traffic counts," Summers said following Tuesday's Board of Public Works and Safety meeting. "When we do it we want to do it right."
Whalen said safety is his main concern, which is why he thinks keeping it a four-way stop is best for pedestrians and vehicles.
"The intersection in its current four-way stop configuration, with the addition of crosswalks, would be the safest for everyone, property owners, pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles," he said.