FORTVILLE — A consultant hopes to see construction start late next year on a trail between Fortville’s south side and several Mt. Vernon schools.
Josh Eisenhauer, project manager for Indianapolis-based VS Engineering, said during a meeting at the Fortville Community Center Monday night that the 2-mile, 10-foot wide asphalt trail project is split into several phases. The meeting, set up by the project’s consultants to explain its scope and gauge public reaction, was attended by about 25 people, inluduing some across whose property the trail would run. The attendees who spoke sought clarification on issues like how the trail will affect drainage and the placement of gas meters, fire hydrants and mailboxes
The first phase of the project is along the west side of Fortville Pike/Maple Street between Garden Street and County Road 200W, Eisenhauer said. A buffer of about 6 feet will exist between the trail and the road.
The second phase will continue the trail via a crossing between Fortville Pike and 200W. Eisenhauer said those involved in the project continue to investigate what kind of crossing will be built. Possibilities include a high-visibility activated crosswalk signal and a full traffic signal, Eisenhauer said.
The trail will extend south along the east side of County Road 200W to just north of Fortville Elementary School. It will have a 30-foot buffer.
North of the elementary school, a high-visibility activated crosswalk will cross the trail to the west side of County Road 200W, where it will continue south along the elementary school property and Mt. Vernon High School property to just north of U.S. 234. There, another high-visibility activated crosswalk will span between the high school property and Mt. Vernon Junior High School across 200W.
Eisenhauer said the project’s motivation is to connect Fortville’s sidewalks to the schools and new developments and free pedestrians and cyclists from having to share the same path as automobiles.
“By separating the different modes of transportation, it helps improve safety for everybody who’s using the road,” he said.
Pedestrian-scale lights will illuminate the trail. Eisenhauer said they aren’t meant to encourage people to use the trail at night, but rather boost safety for those using it during early mornings and late evenings.
While the project calls for a 10-foot wide trail and buffers of 6 and 30 feet, Eisenhauer expects adaptations will have to be made to accommodate the surroundings in certain areas.
“We’re not just going to blow through with a 6-foot buffer and a 10-foot trail,” he said. “We’ll make it fit whatever is out there now. We’re going to try to have as little impact as we can.”
The project is divided into phases so it can be designed right away and constructed at different times if necessary depending on how the funding comes in, Eisenhauer said.
“We’re hoping we can get funding to build it all at once, but it may stretch over a couple construction seasons before all of this gets built,” he said.
Money that the Anderson-based Metropolitan Planning Organization secured from the Indiana Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration is funding most of the project. The federal and state governments will fully fund whatever crossing is chosen between Fortville Pike and County Road 200W. The governments will fund 80 percent of the rest of the project, leaving the remaining 20 percent to Fortville.
Eisenhauer said the latest estimate for the project amounts to about $2.5 million in construction costs, but more remains to be determined before a final price tag is set.
Indianapolis-based HNTB Corporation prepared the proposal’s environmental and other findings, which are required when state and federal funds are involved.
Christine Meador of HNTB said at Monday’s meeting that the project will have an adverse effect on two historical properties — St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church and a house. A memorandum outlines mitigation measures to offset those effects, she said.
HNTB will turn in its findings, including comments submitted Monday night, to INDOT. After that, the project’s funding can be authorized.
Eisenhauer said he hopes to have the project’s environmental approval this summer. Negotiations over land acquisition will follow, finishing in the spring of 2020. The project will ideally receive construction bids in fall 2020, with work starting shortly after, Eisenhower said.
Maria Bond, director of community relations for Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation, told the Daily Reporter that the school corporation endorses the project. Student safety is the corporation’s No. 1 concern, she said. The project achieves that by giving students a designated area to walk, Bond continued, adding the two high-visibility activated crosswalk signals increase safety as well.
“Those were really imperative for us,” she said of the signals.
Haley Frischkorn, a Fortville resident and Mt. Vernon faculty member welcomes the trail as well. She grew up on County Road 200W and recalls having to dart into the ditch while walking along the road with her family when vehicles passed by. She agrees the trail will increase safety while also promoting healthy living.
“I’m very excited about it,” Frischkorn said, “I can’t wait.”