More than $3 million will be spent to pave portions of eight different county roads this summer after the Brown County Commissioners unanimously approved awarding a bid for the paving project last week.
E&B Paving was awarded a contract for $3,118,771 during the June 15 meeting to pave portions of the following county roads: Lanam Ridge Road (4.15 miles); Woodland Lake Road (2 miles); Hurdle Road (2 miles); Spearsville Road (2 miles); Three Story Hill Road (3.4 miles); Parkview Road (1 mile); Hornettown Road (3.5 miles); and Owl Creek Road (2.5 miles).
Paving will be funded by local sources including money from gas and excise taxes through the state and the wheel tax you pay when you register vehicles in Brown County. Commissioners also budgeted $800,000 out of the $3 million capital improvement loan that was approved last year to help with paving costs.
In addition to the loan funds, Brown County Highway Superintendent Mike Magner said he has enough money in his budget to cover the $3.1 million paving project, but will have to go before the Brown County Council to request permission to move unappropriated money in his budget to cover paving 20.5 miles of county roads.
The paving of Four Mile Ridge Road is also expected to start next week, according to a public notice from the Brown County Highway Department that was sent to The Democrat on June 23.
E&B was the lowest of four bidders for the locally-funded projects. Bids were opened at the June 1 commissioners meeting.
These roads will be paved in addition to all of Helmsburg and Clay Lick roads. Milestone Contractors is expected to start paving those roads later this month. This project is funded by the Indiana Department of Transportation’s $1 million Community Crossings grant the county was awarded late last year. The grant requires a match of 25% of the money awarded, up to $1 million.
Last week, Magner said he intends to apply for another $1 million Community Crossings grant in July. In April, he presented the commissioners with an updated road improvement master plan, which listed the roads that would be paved this summer with local funds and Community Crossings funding.
If the county receives another $1 million grant this year portions of the following roads would be paved next year: North Shore Drive (2.4 miles); South Shore Drive (2 miles); Beech Tree Road (1.75 miles); and Bean Blossom Road (4.5 miles) — totaling 10.65 miles.
The proposed roads to be paved next year using local funding include: Grandma Barnes Road, North Covered Bridge Road, Harrison Ridge Road, Poplar Ridge Road, Kent Road, Stevens Road and Hamilton Creek Road — totaling 13.65 miles.
“Most of the roads — once we propose them — do get done, but that is not a guarantee,” Magner said in April after presenting the updated plan.
Last fall, the commissioners awarded contracts to pave a little over 12 miles that was paid for by local funding. Paving done last year included: One mile of the Old State Road 46 “business loop” in Gnaw Bone; one mile of Old 46 from Nashville to the Brown County State Park; nearly a mile of Oak Grove Road off of Country Club Road; three miles of Bear Wallow Hill Road; over two miles of Three Notch Road; and over one mile of Ford Ridge Road.
Dave O’Mara Contractors Inc. was awarded the contract to pave Four Mile Ridge Road last fall. Paving was delayed to weather and is scheduled to start on, or after, Monday, June 27.
The road will be closed during daytime work hours to all traffic in order for crews to pave the entire road in one single pass, a public notice released June 23 states.
Local traffic will be directed to the opposite end of the work zone — Mt. Liberty Road on the west side or State Road 46 on the east, according to the notice.
Paving work is set to be done by July 1. Other work, including stone shoulders and painted lines, will be completed at a later date.
No set date has been announced for paving the eight additional roads using local funding as Magner will need to meet with E&B Paving to finalize a schedule, but he said at the June 15 meeting that paving should happen this summer.
County road conditions is often a topic on social media and at county meetings. People share photos to social media of roads with potholes in need of attention.
When asked about paving priorities and maintenance plans, Magner said his crews work as quickly as they can repairing roads and that paving is always limited due to funding, causing the county to prioritize certain roads to pave first. But the plans can always change following a harsh winter or heavy flooding that can further damage a road, moving it higher up the list.
Due to recent heavy spring rains, Magner said his crews have also been out grading gravel roads including Possum Trot twice this year because of washouts. Grading roads twice in one year is “more than normal,” he said.
On social media, residents continue to identify roads throughout the county that are in need of paving and pothole repairs. From Elkinsville to Grandview to Bear Creek to Upper Schooner to Green roads — the question always remains the same: When will my road get paved?
Recent discussions about paving priorities during commissioner meetings for this year have had Lanam Ridge Road at the top of the paving list.
At the May 6 commissioners meeting, Plum Creek Road resident Ron Smith asked the commissioners when both Lanam Ridge and Owl Creek roads would be paved due to their “dangerous” conditions, causing drivers to swerve around potholes and almost crash into oncoming vehicles. Smith said two days prior to the meeting he was almost hit by a car trying to miss a pothole while driving on Lanam Ridge Road.
Commissioner Chuck Braden said at that time he had driven Lanam Ridge Road to check out its condition.
“It needs to be repaved. I will not argue with that,” he said.
“But like a majority of county roads it is narrower than state roads 45 or 135.”
Smith said the roads are used often by residents traveling to work in Bloomington. He thanked the highway department for recently addressing some potholes on Lanam Ridge, but noted no repairs had been at that point to Owl Creek.
“We can only do so many (potholes) a day when it is not raining,” Magner said during the May 6 meeting.
“We don’t like to be criticized that we’re not doing anything because we advertised a half dozen times that (Lanam Ridge) is one of the roads we’re going to pave. It is in the works.”
Smith said that repairing Lanam Ridge has been “five years in the making” ever since the road was used as a detour during the Indiana Department of Transportation’s bridge replacement project on Yellowwood Road.
As a Plum Creek resident, Smith also had concerns about its condition and the potholes created after a heavy rain. He said he would give the county an easement on his property to install a ditch to direct water and help the gravel road not rut out following a heavy rain. Magner said last month he would contact him about getting an easement to help fix that road.
If the county is able to pave the roads included on the plan for next year, there will be 79.4 miles of hard surface county roads left to pave. Magner said his department had over 230 miles of road to pave when he took over as highway superintendent in 2015.
Not including the 31 miles to be paved this year, the county has paved nearly 135 of county roads since 2015 including nearly 18 miles of total reclamation. The county received its first Community Crossings grant in 2016 to help cover paving costs, helping kick off annual paving projects with the goal of paving 20 miles of road each year.
“We had over 234 miles that needed to be paved since I took this job. We’ve paved over 60% of those already,” Magner said in May.
“Everybody is worried about the ones in front of their house and I understand that, but we get to them as fast as we can.”