Officials push for federal dollars to fund bypass plan

GREENFIELD — County officials are drumming up support for a project that would alleviate traffic issues on one of the county’s busiest thoroughfares.

A group of roughly 30 community stakeholders met for an hour this week to discuss the status of the Mount Comfort Road bypass project and the steps they need to take as they try to secure federal grant money for the project, now estimated to cost some $100 million.

The meeting brought together county and McCordsville officials, business leaders, residents and lawyers who will help officials advocate for the project in Washington.

For more than a decade, local officials have debated constructing a bypass around Mount Comfort Road (County Road 600W) to alleviate traffic there.

With more than 13,000 cars traveling on the road daily, traffic on Mount Comfort Road, north of Interstate 70, gets congested during peak travel times, especially near McCordsville, officials say.

The Hancock County Redevelopment Commission, one of the entities working on the project, recently hired law firm Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman of Indianapolis to help local officials push the project forward and secure federal funding.

The project is expensive, and without federal grants, local officials say they won’t be able to bring it to fruition.

As county leaders apply for federal dollars — Hancock County Highway Engineer Gary Pool recently submitted applications for two grants to pay for a portion of the project — they say having a cohesive message about why the project is needed is imperative.

The project as planned would widen the thoroughfare and loop it east and north around McCordsville before reconnecting north of State Road 67. Construction wouldn’t be complete until 2034, though local officials would like to see it finished sooner because of growth in the area.

With a new president and federal administration, now is a good time to start pushing for funding for the project, John Williams of Hall Render told the group that met Monday.

He and his colleagues are already looking at different funding options. They’ll help local officials come up with a strategy for applying for as much federal funding as they can and bring together stakeholders and elected officials in Washington, D.C., who can help, he said.

Federal grants for transportation projects are competitive, said Andrew Coats of Hall Render, and the federal officials granting the funding want to see community support and involvement for those projects.

Hancock Regional Hospital CEO Steve Long, who attended the meeting Monday, said the bypass is likely one of the most important projects that needs to be completed in the next 10 to 15 years to foster growth in Hancock County.

The project is important to businesses, as well as residents, he said.

Steve Vail, a member of the Hancock County redevelopment commission, said officials and community members need to look at the bypass as a project that will have impact on the region, not just Hancock County. Officials are creating marketing materials for the project that will advertise it as a regional project, Vail said.

As the process moves forward, the stakeholders who met Monday will be informed about the project’s progress, he said.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.