County Commissioners to hold public meeting on April 2nd

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Markland-Enterprise Pike is one of the most well-traveled roads in Switzerland County, and with 13-percent of all county accidents happening on Markland Pike, the Switzerland County Commissioners are beginning to look at ways of improving the road to make it more safe for motorists.

At last Monday’s meeting of the commissioners, a preliminary presentation was made showing several different options for improving the roadway, including the relocation of the lower portion of the road so that it more closely lines up with the Markland Dam.

After hearing all of the information, the commissioners have set a public meeting for Monday, April 2nd, to get public input on the road. No decisions have been made at this time, so this meeting is to gather opinions and information.

The meeting will be held in the conference room in the basement of the Switzerland County Courthouse, and will begin at 6 p.m., following the conclusion of the regularly scheduled commissioners’ meeting, which begins at 5 p.m.

This is a special meeting of the commissioners, and it is open to the public. Those wanting to express an opinion on the reconstruction and realignment of Markland Pike are urged to attend this meeting.

“The questions are how to straighten it out and how to make it safer,” Doug Dagley, project engineer for Janssen & Spaans Engineering in Indianapolis, told the commissioners at their meeting last week. “Right now 13-percent of county accidents happen on Markland Pike, and that’s just the accidents that are reported. No one knows how many others occur that no one reports.”

According to the preliminary report that Doug Dagley presented to the commissioners, traffic studies show that the average traffic on Markland Pike is 1,100 per day. Most of those drivers use the road as a short cut between State Road 56 and State Road 156, and the report noted that if those drivers chose to state on the state roads rather than use Markland Pike, it would be an additional nine miles per day.

That calculates to an additional vehicle cost of $1.5 million per year just to travel a safer route. According to a cost benefit analysis that the engineering firm did, realigning the road in some fashion will save $77,000 per year as well as give drivers a safer road to travel on.

Doug Dagley showed through large satellite images three possible alignments for a new Markland Pike, all of which would be located on top of the hill. He also discussed how those possible alignments would affect distance.

He also discussed how a new alignment for Markland Pike could eliminate heavy traffic, and said that one possibility is for the new alignment to come off of State Road 101 – which comes across the Markland Dam – and then go up the hill. With that option, there are six different alignment possibilities at this time.

The option of coming off of the Markland Dam is interesting in that discussions have gone on for years about whether or not the county should actively lobby the state to extend State Road 101 to the north, with an eventual goal of connecting the Markland Dam road to Highway 50 – and beyond.

With State Road 129 running north from Highway 50 to Batesville, where it intersects Interstate 74, a new state road running north would in essence connect Interstate 74 running across the middle of Indiana to Interstate 71, which runs south of Switzerland County and connects Louisville and Cincinnati.

This would hold the potential to allow for substantial development of this area of the state, bringing jobs and commerce, but to this point the state has been unwilling to put the new road on its schedule.

Should the county decide to realign Markland Pike and bring it to State Road 101 rather than where it is located now, which is to the west, conceivably the county project could “jump start” the state towards extending what the county has already done.

But such a project also carries a big price tag.

Commission president Craig Bond said that a realignment of Markland Dam, particularly if it does move to align with the Markland Dam, will carry a price tag of $8-$10 million; but if the county works with state and federal officials, the cost to the county could go way down.

“This is a very inexpensive way of getting started,” Craig Bond said at last week’s meeting. “We are looking for an alignment that will bring the county the most state money and the most federal money. We could get back as much as 80-percent of the cost of the project.”