Daviess County officials are putting the finishing touches on a five year road building plan. The idea behind the plan is to try and begin converting some of the 700 plus miles of gravel roads into pavement.
“Being number one in the state in gravel roads, and I will say this until the day I die, is pathetic,” said President of the Daviess County Commissioners Nathan Gabhart. “We can do better. We will do better.”
The Daviess County Highway Department began a few years ago to build the information and policies that might help lead to more paving projects. The county hired the Southern Indiana Development Commission to do more than 100 additional traffic counts on gravel roads to locate those with the most traffic. It also set in place policies for cost sharing programs where residents and businesses could petition and then participate in funding the construction of paved roads. All of it leading toward a plan to turn gravel roads to pavement.
“We have the draft together,” said Daviess County Highway Supervisor Phil Cornelius. “We still plan to have a couple of meetings. We are going to take it before some folks for public comment and the Daviess County Council still needs to weigh in on the plan. We are going to present it to the public to see if we missed the mark somewhere. It we are missing some date we should have used or missing some road some where that we need to take a look at.”
Under the County’s Road Improvement Plan roads are scored based on traffic counts, how well they connect to other paved roads, whether the county holds documented right of way to improve the road, the number of homes and the number of businesses along the road.
“We’ve got the template laid out for that,” said Gabhart. “It is still subject to change. It’s not that we were doing badly beforehand. I just felt we did not have a real structured system. I’m a more analytical kind of guy. I want to see the logic behind it so we can make a consistent decision across the board. It’s great to see this come to fruition. Certainly, it’s subject to change. Now when the money starts coming in we know what roads are the right roads to upgrade.”
The county believes that because of the increase in gas taxes and registration fees it will have $5.3 million more money available in highway funds over the next five years. Officials say they believe they can turn 33 miles of current gravel road into pavement with that money.
“From the looks of the way the new INDOT funding has come out we would have funding to cover the roads in the plan,” said Cornelius. “That would have us doing about 6.5 miles per year and that would pretty much max us out.”
County officials say they are doing more with the roads than making them black on top. The projects are designed to make them last.
“We are trying to build roads so that they are fiscally sustainable, so that the next generation doesn’t have to worry about major repairs,” said Cornelius. “Part of that is acquiring the right of way and doing the drainage tile and the drainage ditches properly and site improvements and things like that so we’ll be able to maintain them. That will max us out.”
Besides the cost-share program county officials are working on projects that will also utilize state funding through the Community Crossings grant program. The county has already used the program to upgrade CR 550N and expects to use both the cost share and the grant program to pave CR 200N which is one of the roads on the list for immediate work.
“It looks like Community Crossings will continue so we are going to continue, with the blessing of the county council, to use some of that funding to help build roads,” said Cornelius.
Officials say that while the list is tentative right now they are looking at paving about a half mile of CR 400N that goes to a discount grocery with heavy traffic, CR 200N, CR 775E from CR 1000N to CR 500N, CR 1500N east of the cheese factory to connect with CR 800E and CR 450E from CR 350N to CR 800N.
“There’s going to be lots of significant connections being made which will cause some of the traffic on our existing roads to spread out and cause less wear and tear on the infrastructure we have in place now,” said Cornelius.