NEW PALESTINE — The installation of the roundabout at the intersection of County Roads 500W and 300S has been delayed due to utilities not getting installed in a timely manner.
The intersection was slated for a hard shutdown closure on June 1 with construction on the roundabout to start shortly after and lasting for most of the summer. The hope was the roundabout would be completed before the new school year starts Tuesday, Aug. 3, but barring a construction miracle, that’s not likely to happen.
The $1.14 million project will close the intersection for at least 60 days.
Officials with the town of New Palestine informed the town council late last week that the start of construction could be pushed back as far as the end of July, meaning one of the main roads into New Palestine could be closed into September.
Council members were dismayed upon hearing the news and immediately shifted into high gear to get the one utility they said was holding up the project, AT&T, to get its work done as soon as possible.
Council member Angie Fahrnow vowed to call officials with AT&T frequently until they got the work completed.
Town manager Jim Robinson ran into an AT&T official at a restaurant late last week and stressed to the person the importance of getting the utility work completed so the project could move forward as planned.
Part of project involves relocating utilities infrastructure in the construction area. Work on the new pavement itself cannot begin until that work is complete.
Robinson was optimistic after the encounter and said he feels like AT&T officials, who are now aware of the issue, will work to see their part is finished sooner rather than later. Robinson is hopeful all the utilities might be installed within the next few weeks, meaning work on the roundabout could begin sometime late this month.
However, Robinson noted he wasn’t completely satisfied with the conversation and will keep pushing until he sees the project moving forward.
In the meantime, the road remains open while other utility work is getting done.
Steve Pool, a town employee who is helping manage the project, told the council he hated to bring them more bad news about the roundabout, something town officials have been working to get since 2016.
“It’s like a gut punch,” Pool said. “When one of the utilities is slow, it creates a domino effect.”
Pool noted none of the utility companies, such as Comcast, Duke Energy or AT&T, have hit their target dates, creating frustration for town and county officials who know one of the most dangerous intersections in the county needs to be addressed immediately.
Pool anticipated all utilities except AT&T will be installed by the end of this week. He noted construction delays are plaguing projects everywhere.
Pool anticipates the roads will remain open at least through June and said when workers get close to shutting the intersection down, they’ll post signage a few weeks in advance so drivers will have time to find alternative routes. The Indiana Department of Transportation is assisting with that process.
“INDOT officials have assured me they will do everything possible to expedite the process,” Pool said.
Bob Martin, Southern Hancock schools’ director of transportation said they’ve been expecting this closure for some time and have new routes mapped out just in case of a delay in getting the project finished.
“We have a reroute plan in place utilizing 600W and Bittner Road to 400W to avoid the intersection,” he said. “We expect 600W may be exceptionally busy with detour traffic, so more buses may utilize 400W if necessary.”
They’ll contact affected families prior to the first day of school in early August. Some stops may see a delay of a few minutes each way, but they do not expect significant changes in route timing, Martin said.