Work continues on State Road 129, winter excavation paves way for summer road work

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Brad Wathen, project engineer over the State Road 129 project for the Indiana Department of Transportation, is overseeing a project that is officially shut down for the winter until April 1st — but that hasn’t kept workers from staying very busy through the winter months.

“Right now we’re on schedule,” Brad Wathen said. “Work is still going on, but we haven’t closed the road to traffic. We have to get the excavation done before we can work, and that affects traffic.”

The road reopened to traffic on December 1st, but county travelers will again have to find alternate routes around the area beginning next month, because it will again be closed to all traffic until next winter.

And there’s a lot to be done.

“We hope to get to the north side of Moorefield by December 1st,” Brad Wathen said. “We will start where we left off on April 1st, and keep working north.”

The entire project will cover just over 12 miles, and work that began at the intersection of highways 56 and 129 near the Switzerland County YMCA will continue to move north until it reaches Pleasant.

Along the way, curves will be straightened, bridges will be replaced, and the road will be made more passable for drivers.

What has gone on this winter has been the excavation of large areas of hillside along the roadway. Brad Wathen said that there was one big cut that needed to be finished so that work could progress, and that has now been done.

The excavation work has led to acres and acres of dirt and rock that has had to be taken from the area; and some areas — such as where the new bridge will cross Long Run Creek about two miles north of highway 56 — are being built up.

Much of the preliminary work has now been completed on the bridge, and motorists going north on highway 129 can now visualize where the new bridge will connect to the existing roadway.

Once the job is completed some current county roads will have to have new approaches created in order to tie into the new sections of roadway. One of those areas will be Parks Ridge Road near the Long Run Baptist Church.

Currently the road goes in front of the church with a curve that sweeps to the west as you drive north. Once the work is completed, the new state road will run in back of the church, which will create the need for Parks Ridge to be tied into the new road.

Brad Wathen says that it will not be significant, just some alignment changes, and that in other areas, what doesn’t tie into existing county road will be removed.

Dave O’Mara is the general contractor on the project, which carries a price tag of just over $19 million. Brad Wathen said that Dave O’Mara has several subcontractors working on the project; and it is the job of INDOT workers on site to supervise the work to make sure that it is being done to the specifications of the contract.

As Spring approaches, motorists who have been going up and down highway 129 — and facing some delays because of the excavation work — will need to again begin using alternate routes to get to the other areas of the county normally accessed by State Road 129.

This means that visitors coming into and leaving the county will also be affected, and will need to follow the established detour in order to get around the construction.

The official detour for the project takes motorists coming from the north to the intersection of highways 129 and 250; and then east on highway 250 to East Enterprise; and then south on highway 56 down into Vevay.