NEW PALESTINE — For more than five years, officials have been waiting for the Indiana Department of Transportation to come through with a concrete plan to expand the intersection of U.S. 52 and CR 500W. While nothing official has been determined, town officials say they at least have a sympathetic ear.
Town manager Dave Book and town council President Jan Jarson are scheduled to meet with Greenfield INDOT officials and United Engineering today in Greenfield to discuss the issue, Book said.
“I’m glad to have the opportunity to talk to them about it,” Book said. “We’re just going to see what their plans are for that area and tell them what our hopes are.”
An INDOT spokesman said the state has no current plans to upgrade the busy intersection in the heart of town.
“But that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be some improvements if they are needed,” said Nathan Riggs.
In spring 2009, the intersection was scheduled to be widened as part of a $2.8 million Major Moves Project to rebuild Main Street. However, after widening U.S. 52 through town, the funding for the rest of the project, including the intersection and U.S. 52 west of CR 500W, dried up. The last piece of the project has never been addressed.
“They’ve already done CR 800W, 700W and 600W, and they haven’t done anything here,” Book said.
The intersection is the busiest in the town. It carries traffic into nearby New Palestine High School, New Palestine Elementary School and the Southern Hancock School Corp. offices and bus garage. According to INDOT documentation, the average daily vehicle count on U.S. 52 at New Palestine is projected to grow from 12,080 to 18,380 by 2025.
While Book and town officials say they are not sure what to expect from the meeting, that they were able to get a meeting with INDOT officials is encouraging.
“At least we have an audience,” council member Larry Jonas said.
For the past several years, he and other council members have tried to work through state representatives and Indianapolis INDOT officials to get some kind of answer on when the intersection might be redone, but they have come away with no solid answers.
“We’ve hit dead end after dead end after dead end, and so we contacted United Engineers, and they made a few phone calls and were able to get us this audience,” Book said.
The town has used much of its own funding recently for a sidewalk project in and around town and is finishing the project for pedestrians along CR 500N, also known as Gem Road. But current plans call for it to end before it gets to U.S. 52. Book says that puts pedestrians in harm’s way when trying to go through the busy intersection.
“Our other concern is that intersection is not safe for pedestrian use,” Book said. “We can’t get kids to the library safely, and it’s just a bad situation we are wanting and hoping to get rectified as soon as possible.”
Book said he doesn’t want to get his hopes too high, but said he is optimistic something might get done sooner rather than later.
The state’s latest plans called for the intersection to be widened sometime in 2020, but Book said it has been so long since they’ve been able to get a definitive word from state officials that he is not even sure if those plans are still valid.
“I don’t even know if we’re even on their radar at all anymore,” Book said.
Riggs said the discussion that will take place today is how improvement projects get started.
“We’re always willing to work with local agencies to improve areas that need to be addressed,” he said.