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McCordsville officials fret over bypass uncertainties

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McCORDSVILLE – By about 2030, the county’s CR 300N and 600W road improvement projects, including the McCordsville bypass, are likely to be complete.

But that’s a long way into the future, and in the meantime, developers looking at locating in McCordsville are having a hard time getting their heads around the long-range project and whether its impact would help or hinder business development.

“That (bypass portion of the project) is causing a lot of developers who are kicking around here a lot of heartburn because of the uncertainty,” McCordsville town manager Tonya Galbraith said last week. “They don’t know if it’s going to happen and if their plans should incorporate that alignment or not include that alignment. It’s actually standing in the way of development, to a point. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

Initially, there was significant momentum in McCordsville to get the realignment in place so developers would know where exactly the road was going to be and how they could work with or around it. But when McCordsville officials were working early in the process, they did not expect the county’s plan to stretch almost 20 years into the future.

“Now we’re saying we don’t expect any growth until 2030. Because all the growth happens with something that doesn’t exist yet,” public works committee and McCordsville Town Council member Tom Strayer said.

The project is split into phases. A project of this size and magnitude will take years. Nearly 96 acres of permanent right-of-way would be needed from private landowners, and property acquisition alone has put public infrastructure projects at a standstill in recent years.

The driving force behind the project is the increasing traffic along Mt. Comfort Road and the congestion in McCordsville. The McCordsville bypass is one of the last portions of the project that is set to be completed, casting growth and development in the area into a cloud of uncertainty.

When the project was first being discussed in earnest at the county level in 2010, McCordsville officials developed a wish list of items, including a median for the entire distance of CR 800N and CR 1000N/96th Street. They also sought the construction of a pedestrian crossing at Bay Creek for access to the residents who will then be able to safely cross to the pool and amenity area. Large pedestrian crossing markings, a median for refuge and a possible warning flasher activated by a push button were also on the wish list.

On CR 600W, the proposed construction begins just north of CR 300N and extends north to the county line.

The overall project would add travel lanes to about three miles of CR 300N and seven miles of CR 600W/Mt. Comfort Road and also includes the CR 600W bypass that starts south of McCordsville.

CR 300N will be widened to four travel lanes from CR 700W to CR 400W. CR 600W will be widened to four travel lanes from CR 300N north of Interstate 70 to CR 1000N, the Hamilton County line bordering McCordsville.

The road improvements, projected to cost nearly $47 million in total, would add lanes to both CR 600W and CR 300N starting at the roundabout, currently under construction where the roads meet.

One key feature of the improvements is the McCordsville realignment, which under the current plan would swing east of the present configuration for CR 600W.

Gary Pool, Hancock County highway engineer, said construction is under way on the roundabout at the CR 300N and CR 600W intersection near Mt. Comfort Elementary School and the Mt. Comfort United Methodist Church.

Pool said he recently obtained partial federal funding for a portion of the road project that extends east of the roundabout.

“That actually surprised me because I really wanted to get moving north,” Pool said. “We’ll continue to apply for these grants. I’ve had some success writing grants. That’s the good news.”

But the McCordsville portion of the project is still several years out.

“By the time it would be constructed it would be 2029, which would be 15 years,” Pool said.

Immediately following that would be the final section in 2031.

“That is a long way into the future. That is the current plan. We are healthy... from our fiscal standpoint,” Pool said.

There will be enough to fund the local match for the federal grants, according to Pool.

“Our Achilles’ heel is that all this assumes we are funded 80 percent to 20 percent by the federal government,” Pool said. “If we start losing parts of that, we’ll be under fiscal strain pretty quickly. We’ve got it planned out where we can maybe eat one (portion of the project).  his plan assumes that we’ll have federal funding and maintain political support for the project.”

Federal 80-20 grants, where the federal government supplies 80 percent of a project’s cost while the municipality provides 20 percent, are getting harder to come by, and even the matching funds are diminishing.

“McCordsville has noticed recently that it seems like more and more, matching funds get thrown out of the match, so that 20-80 effectively becomes more like 30-70,” Strayer said.

Local municipalities themselves are required to fund right-of-way acquisitions, construction inspections and more.

“That is across all municipalities,” Pool said.

McCordsville officials simultaneously are working on their south district annexation project. The area the town is looking to annex includes 227 parcels, 142 houses, four businesses, 5.3 road miles and 170 property owners who would be impacted. The area is about 1,132 acres.

“If our annexation goes through, that takes us down (CR 600W) to (CR 500N),” Galbraith said. “We’ll want to factor that in, too.”

Both county officials and McCordsville officials want to continue working on the collaborative effort as they address their concerns together.

“We’re all in the same boat out here trying to provide the best infrastructure we can for our citizens,” Pool said.

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