Town orders study on busy road

McCORDSVILLE OFFICIALS SEEK OPTIONS TO ALLEVIATE MOUNT COMFORT TRAFFIC

MCCORDSVILLE — McCordsville officials could abandon a plan to construct a bypass of Mount Comfort Road depending upon the finding of a new study the town council has commissioned.

Town officials say they want to alleviate traffic issues on one of the county’s busiest thoroughfares sooner than the proposed bypass’s 2031 timeline for the bypass and at a cheaper cost than its expected $47 million price tag.

After six years of planning the bypass project — and amid an ongoing debate over who will pay for which portions of the project — the McCordsville Town Council decided to dip into its savings to pay an engineering firm to study traffic on Mount Comfort Road (County Road 600W) and make alternate recommendations.

The bypass project, intended to alleviate traffic along a one-mile stretch of Mount Comfort Road, would widen the thoroughfare and loop it east and north around McCordsville before reconnecting north of State Road 67.

It’s forecasted to cost $47 million, and county and town officials continue to debate how the cost is divided. Should the plan move forward as proposed, construction would begin in 2021 with final completion in 2031.

Town officials say they are ready to explore options other than rerouting the road, though constructing a bypass remains an option. They want to find out if any less expensive, less time-consuming options exist; a plan that would alleviate traffic on the roadway now and not just 15 years down the line, town council president Larry Longman said.

The town council has allotted $6,000 from its rainy day fund to pay CrossRoad Engineers, a Beech Grove-based company, to study the feasibility of widening Mount Comfort Road without rerouting it.

The study is expected to take at least five weeks to complete.

Local leaders first began studying traffic on County Road 600W a decade ago, and since then, several engineering firms and local experts have pondered the best action to take, officials said.

In 2011, Hancock County and McCordsville decided to move forward with plans for a bypass after one engineering firm and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization recommended it as an option.

Many aspects of the community have changed since the 2010 study was completed, most notably the town’s rapid growth, officials said. U.S. census data from 2010 lists McCordsville’s population at about 4,800, and town officials estimate it is closer to 7,000 now.

A new study would give the town and the county the most up-to-date information to consider, said Ryan Crum, building and zoning director for McCordsville.

Using it, they can better decide how to move forward.

Longman said traffic issues on the roadway are an everyday complaint from people living in McCordsville’s neighborhoods, and board members felt they owed it to the community to consider other possibilities to alleviate commuters’ headaches.

The town has also felt pressure to act from neighboring municipalities in Hamilton and Marion counties, whose residents use Mount Comfort Road as a corridor north from Interstate 70.

Though he seemed disappointed town officials were considering moving in a different direction after years of planning and debate, Hancock County Commissioner Brad Armstrong said he respected the board’s decision and was intrigued to hear the study’s findings.

The plan for a bypass was not put together haphazardly, Armstrong added.

It took a lot of time, money and effort to lay the groundwork for the project; but he knew it was a big undertaking for the town, as its portion was expected to cost some $30 million.

“If their constituents want to them to explore other options, they are beholden to that,” he said. “It’s their roadway in their town.”

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.