white patent dr martens Utica objects to next phase of heavy haul road
CLARK COUNTY The Utica Town Board has sent a letter to Indiana officials objecting to pending construction of the heavy haul road, which the board president says will negatively impact the small town.
At a meeting Dec. 12, the Utica Town Board voted 4 0 to object to road construction near town limits, which, when complete, will provide a material access road between the Port of Indiana Jeffersonville and River Ridge Commerce Center.
One section of the road was opened to traffic in late 2016, connecting Ind. 265 to River Ridge; the one under discussion now is to connect Ind. 265 to the port. It is expected to be constructed in 2019.
Following the meeting, Utica Town Council President Steve Long sent a letter to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuiness expressing concerns about the potential location of the road.
“Such a project crosses several areas near Utica Town boundaries,” the letter states. It also says the new Ind. 265 would serve as a better route, because it already connects with Port Road.
“It is unnecessary to spend millions of dollars to create a heavy industrial “Heavy Trucker Road” which can only bring unnecessary traffic, loads, transport, possible spills and all sorts of unknown problems for Utica,” the letter states.
“We respectfully ask that you support us to stop potential damage to our town.”
The letter also requests responses be sent to Utica, the Clark County Commissioners, Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore, River Ridge Executive Director Jerry Acey and the Indiana Port Commission.
Utica Town Board President Steve Long said in an interview Wednesday that the letter was necessary to make state officials aware of the town’s stance on the road; he said they haven’t been part of discussions for the INDOT led project.
“The heavy haul road is something that’s been talked about and talked about,” he said. “But Utica has been left out of it we’ve had no input.”
The letter states that INDOT has not brought Utica officials into the discussion or planning for the project nor has it contacted town officials regarding facilities at the junction of Old Salem Road and Ind. 265, including signage to show motorists that the first Indiana exit after the Lewis and Clark Bridge is into Utica.
“The prospect of heavy duty trucks losing direction and driving into Utica, break downs of such trucks, the hauling of noxious product or dangerous chemicals is all very dangerous and scary to Utica officials,” the letter states.
“Before matters . get more serious and/or escalate, we respectfully ask your office to suspend all work on [the heavy haul road].”
An email response from the INDOT commissioner’s office Thursday states that the new road, which would be built to withstand the heavy loads of steel and other raw materials traveling from the port, is a better alternative than the current route. Currently, trucks use Ind. 62 and Ind. 265, which adds time and expense because it’s an indirect route.
The road would provide a direct link between the port and River Ridge, “essentially eliminating any need for heavy trucks to potentially go through Utica using local roads,” the email states. “It would seem that the Council’s opposition to the Heavy Haul Road very much runs counter to their goal of reducing the likelihood of heavy trucks driving through town.”
Clark County Commissioners President Jack Coffman said Thursday that the heavy haul road is designed to help the town, not hurt it.
“The whole point is to avoid that traffic through Utica,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot less intrusive [than] . not having that road at all.”
The email from INDOT stated that Utica Town Board members were not present at either public meeting to discuss this portion of the project in January 2016 and April 2017.
“INDOT believes the Heavy Haul Road Corridor stands to have a transformative positive effect on job growth and investment in Clark County,” the email states. “INDOT has worked closely with the public and stake holders through the development of the project . the Utica Town Council has been invited to participate in the public meetings on the project and on the Community Advisory Committee, but to this point they have not chosen to participate.”
Acey declined to comment and Moore said the discussion should have come as no surprise to Utica.
“I think the town board of Utica is living in a fairy tale for them to say they were unaware of the path and to not have knowledge of this,” Moore said. “[I’m] really troubled how Utica seems to be trying to stop growth in Clark County and I think it’s a shame.”