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Dan Borgenheimer, president of the Blackford County Economic Development Corp., reviews plans for road improvements along State Road 26 during an open house hosted by the Indiana Department of Transportation at Blackford High School.

Widening the roadway is not part of project

    It was about three years ago when local officials, including representatives of the Blackford County Economic Development Corp., met with State Rep. Kevin Mahan (R-Hartford City) and officials with the Indiana Department of Transportation to discuss road improvements along State Road 26 in Blackford County.

     According to Dan Borgenheimer, president of the BCEDC, two specific issues were addressed during these meetings.

    One issue involved the ‘S’ curve along State Road 26 at Mill Street from Washington and Water streets. And the other was the need to widen SR 26 from Hartford City to Upland.

    Motorists who frequently travel along the stretch of road between Hartford City and Upland say the roadway is so narrow that when faced with oncoming semi-trucks, motorists must often move into the grassy shoulder of the roadway to avoid colliding with the trucks that frequently travel along the state highway.

    During an open house hosted by INDOT earlier this month at Blackford High School, local officials were pleased  to learn that an upcoming 12.5 mile preventative maintenance project along SR 26, starting at I-69 and ending at Little Lick Creek at County Road 75-E, would include curve correction on Mill Street and Washington streets. That part of the project will involve the reconstruction of the roadway to allow semi-trucks turning without crossing the center line or running up over the curb.

    The project, which is expected to cost between $5-6 million, is slated to begin early spring 2019. It will also include replacing existing curb ramps at four intersections (Cherry, Jefferson, Monroe and Mulberry). There will also be new pavement markings and parking stalls throughout the Hartford City downtown area as well as repairs to the SR 26 bridge over the Mississinewa River.

    The bridge will be closed 90 days while the repairs are completed.  The curb replacements will have the roadway closed for about 120 days during construction. Dates of road closure will be announced at a later date. The curb replacement will include the installation of new water lines, tearing out the old curbs and considerable utility work. Some of the utility work done by AEP, AT&T, Vectren Energy, Indiana Fiber Network and Comcast Cable is expected to be complete prior to the start of construction.

    Despite the scope of the project, looks of dismay could be seen on the faces of several of the local people who attended the open house following a presentation by Michael Breach with USI Consultants, which is overseeing the project for INDOT.

    Breach explained the project would include the milling of pavement off the highway and replacing it with an additional inch of pavement. The purpose, Breach said, was to improve the ride quality along the roadway, eliminate deficiencies and restore pavement condition to provide a functional and safe roadway.

    But the project will not include the widening of the highway.

    “So basically,” one attendee stated, “it’s going to get smoother, not wider.”

    “To the best of my knowledge, there are no plans to widen SR 26 at this time,” Borgenheimer told the News-Times. “Concerned citizens should contact their state representative to help leverage support for future State Road 26 improvements.”