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Yaël Ksander
Communications Director
ksandery@bloomington.in.us
812-349-3406 

 

City partners with county to mitigate impact of major summer road projects

Bloomington, In. -- Officials from city and county government along with other stakeholders have been working together to coordinate efforts to minimize the impact of several essential improvement projects being completed in Bloomington this spring and summer.


Construction to improve roads, bridges, and sanitary sewer systems in adjacent areas will cause traffic delays and detours, especially on the south and west sides of Bloomington.  The projects are being led by various entities, including the City of Bloomington, City of Bloomington Utilities, Monroe County, the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the State of Indiana.  The concurrence of several improvements results in part from delays in long-planned improvements, such as Section 5 of the I-69 corridor, which was scheduled for completion in 2016.  Other projects have been fast-tracked for completion this year due to the urgency of their condition, adding to an already busy construction season.


Recognizing the potential for the simultaneous projects to cause significant delays and detours in local traffic patterns, Mayor John Hamilton and the Monroe County Commissioners convened meetings in March and April with members of the city’s and county’s planning and public works departments, along with heads of the city’s utilities, fire and police departments, representatives from Bloomington Transit and the MCCSC transportation department.  The integrated decision-making process prioritizes the need for emergency vehicles to be able to navigate the affected areas efficiently and for public transit to continue to provide reliable service.   


As a result, the city and the county have partnered to incentivize contractors responsible for key improvement projects to increase their work schedules to accelerate the rate of completion, minimizing overlap of adjacent projects.


“Infrastructure requires investment,” said Hamilton. “Bloomington has consistently grown by about 1,000 people per year over the past decade, and to accommodate that growth, as well as the normal aging of our roads, bridges, and water system, we need to invest to improve our infrastructure. And we’ll also do all we can to mitigate the inevitable frustrations of altered traffic while we’re building for the future.”


Doing the bulk of the work over the summer will help, while traffic volume is lower, and the city and county are closely coordinating efforts to further lessen inconvenience to residents, with a variety of tools and strategies designed to streamline mobility.  Along with the financial incentives offered to contractors, a number of investments and approaches are designed to facilitate traffic flow and ease frustration.


Actions to reduce congestion: 

 

  • City and County are investing up to $30,000 each to accelerate the Country Club Bridge project so overlap with other projects is minimized
  • City of Bloomington Utilities is investing $18,000 to accelerate the Grimes Lane sewer interceptor project, to allow starting after MCCSC schools close for the summer and attempt to finish before they reopen on August 8th
  • City’s Planning and Transportation Department has voluntarily delayed the intersection improvement project and sidepath construction at Henderson and Winslow
  • City is offering a text alert feature providing in-the-moment notifications and weekly forecasts
  • City will be using drones to gather data on traffic patterns and implement necessary changes
  • County is providing a weekly traffic and construction project update in public meetings, on social and print media, and will launch a platform for residents to receive updates on the status of county projects
  • Modification of traffic signals at selected intersections will be explored to facilitate flow 
  • Traffic updates will be posted at the city-dedicated site (Inroads), on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
  • MCCSC is consolidating the summer school schedule to reduce traffic
  • City is partnering with IU to launch a bikeshare program
  • City and County will evaluate retaining temporary signaling at South Rogers St. and West Gordon Pike during duration of Tapp/Rockport intersection improvement  
  • City and county will hold regular joint meetings throughout the construction season to coordinate efforts with MCCSC Transportation, emergency services, Bloomington Transit


How to commute smarter this summer:

 

  • Text “roads” to 812-558-5987 to receive traffic alerts from the city
  • Download the WAZE or other similar navigation apps, to help determine the least congested route and help others by posting updates of conditions you encounter
  • Consult https://bloomington.in.gov/inroads/events before you head out 
  • Follow @Bloomington In road updates on Facebook
  • Follow @B-townroads on Twitter
  • Watch traffic footage collected by city drone at the city’s YouTube channel
  • Consider walking or biking to work or for errands, using your bike or the bikeshare program
  • Start or join a carpool
  • Explore the possibilities of telecommuting and flex scheduling at your place of work


“We are doing everything in our power to reduce overlap and minimize impact,” Bloomington Public Works Director Adam Wason explained, “knowing that travel conditions have been and will continue to be difficult.”


"We feel the pain caused by the traffic problems and are working every day to lessen the burden for everyone,” said Amanda Barge, President of the Monroe County Commissioners.  “We know people need to get to work on time, get their kids to school with ease, or go to the grocery without waiting in traffic. We ask residents to be as patient as they can during these short-term delays and please watch out for the safety of motorists and those working on our road projects.”


Accelerating a project at the center of the affected area has been central to city-county coordination.  Repairs to a bridge on West Country Club Drive between South Walnut and South Rogers Streets that began March 26 and were slated for completion July 26 will be completed much sooner thanks to a collaborative investment. A city pledge of $30,000 added to $30,000 from the county will facilitate the earlier completion of this county bridge repair project. (And CBU has offered an additional $10,000 for even greater acceleration.)  The contractor, CLR Inc., will be rewarded for accelerated completion with a sliding daily rate that increases for every day saved from the original completion schedule.  The amount of the financial incentive being offered has the potential to hasten construction by as many as 35 days, weather permitting, possibly resulting in West Country Club Drive’s reopening to through traffic by mid-June.


The abbreviated timetable for the bridge project will significantly ease south-side congestion by opening up a major east-west thoroughfare during the completion of an sanitary sewer installation nearby.  City of Bloomington Utilities has scheduled the South Central Interceptor Project near the intersection of South Walnut and Grimes Streets to begin June 5, a week after the current school year ends.  The original completion timeline has been reduced by offering an additional payment of $17,900 to compensate the contractor, ISI, for working ten-hour days and six-day weeks.  


"I think it's excellent that the city and county have joined forces to try to and soften the impact to the motorists of Monroe County where infrastructure projects are involved,” said County Public Works Director Lisa Ridge.


Officials stress the urgency of expediting the Grimes and Walnut sewer installation in order to clear the area for traffic by August 8, the first day of school for MCCSC students.  According to transportation planners for MCCSC, allowing the project to extend into the school year would have transportation and timing impacts for up to 3,200 students per day.  The sewer installation is being undertaken in response to recurring sanitary sewer overflows (SS0s) for many years at this location.  The SSOs, which cause environmental damage, also violate the city’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, and could lead to penalties and additional enforcement action from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.  Delaying the project until MCCSC’s 2019 summer break would incur additional estimated costs of $348,000, and contribute to another year’s worth of environmental damage.

 

Although the Grimes and Walnut sewer project is long overdue, the Country Club Drive bridge repair was unanticipated until 2016, when a routine inspection revealed accelerated deterioration demanding prompt attention.  The urgency of the bridge’s condition required scheduling its repair for the already busy 2018 season.  “This is a case of a perfect storm of projects coming online in the same timeframe with many factors outside of the control of the local agencies coordinating and constructing them,” explained Wason. 


One of the primary factors has been the two-year delay in the Indiana Department of Transportation’s completion of Section 5 of the I-69 corridor, complicating access into and out of Bloomington on the city’s west side.  The delay in the Tapp Road interchange completion has had the domino effect of stalling a long-planned intersection improvement project at Tapp and Rockport Roads. The City of Bloomington Metropolitan Planning Organization is heading the project, which has been under consideration in various iterations for over ten years.  The MPO is approaching a December 2018 deadline to use the funds allocated for the project, 80 percent of which are federally sourced.  Pending INDOT’s projected completion of the Tapp Road/I-69 overpass and interchange May 25, the Tapp/Rockport intersection improvement can get underway in mid-June, with an anticipated reopening in mid-November 2018.  After plans to install a roundabout at the intersection were revised in consideration of the area’s karst topography, the intersection has been re-envisioned with a traffic signal.    


INDOT’s completion of the Walnut, 2nd, and 3rd Street interchanges with I-69 will provide additional relief to drivers in and around Bloomington as the summer progresses.  The 2nd Street project is slated to be complete in late June, and 3rd St, in late August.  The Walnut Street access to I-69 is scheduled to open today, Thursday, April 19.

  

The county’s Fullerton Pike Phase I Reconstruction Project will pose additional challenges to east-west travel on the south side through the summer. Closures on Rhorer Road between Walnut Street and Walnut Street Pike will begin May 1, although traffic will be open between Walnut and Rogers in both directions at all times as long as West Country Club Road is closed.  The project is slated to be completed within 150 days. 


Even with these tools and careful planning, drivers will experience delays and detours in Bloomington this summer.  Wason acknowledges that the high level of construction activity within a concentrated area will be challenging, but stresses how much planning and coordination has been undertaken to minimize frustration.  “Everyone is working together to do what we can to minimize disruption, but we know it’s frustrating,” Wason acknowledges. 


“In order to grow sustainably, we need to plan ahead and work together,” said Hamilton. “These big projects are inconvenient now but will provide long-term benefits. This is an investment in our future.”


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