About 75 attend public meeting to provide input, hear plans
Nothing distinguishes Richmond’s U.S. 40 exit from others found on Interstate 70.
Motorists pass under the blue arch and sweep through a right-hand curve, then there’s two plain exit ramps. One leads back into Ohio, and the other funnels traffic to National Road East businesses and into Richmond.
Sam Patel hopes that interchange will stand out after the Indiana Department of Transportation completes the Wayne County portion of its Revive I-70 project of interstate improvements. Patel, owner of the Best Western hotel at 533 W. Eaton Pike, hopes for flowers and decorations that properly welcome motorists to Indiana, Richmond and those National Road East businesses.
“I just want to make it look good, because that’s our bread and butter there,” Patel said. “There’s a lot of money on that particular exit. People have made a lot of investments there. All that needs to be highlighted.”
Overall, I-70 improvements are planned to stretch from the Ohio border to Indianapolis.
Patel was among about 75 people who attended a Jan. 23 public information meeting at Indiana University East for the local portion, which is expected to include upgrades to the U.S. 40 and U.S. 35 interchanges with I-70. Those attending read information, listened to a 20-minute presentation and spoke with project representatives. A similar online meeting was held Jan. 24.
After the formal presentation, Patel took the opportunity to express his hopes to an INDOT project manager. He understands the need to re-imagine the interchange and is simply concerned that it’s beautified and done right. The short-term construction problems could result in long-term benefits for the National Road East business corridor.
“I’m pretty sure once this is done, (for) 20 or 30 years, nobody’s going to touch it again,” Patel said. “If it’s done the right way, then nobody should be worrying about it or complaining about it for the next 20 or 30 years.”
While INDOT and its project manager, Parsons Corporation, wanted feedback from attendees, Centerville Fire/Rescue Chief Dennis Spears was on a fact-finding mission of his own. He also spoke with the project team about the construction plans.
“We’re concerned about just being able to access the interstate and what kind of problems we’re going to have,” Spears said about responding to I-70 calls during construction. “The main thing is we’ve only got so many ways we can get to the interstate. It’s Centerville Road or (U.S.) 35 and that’s about it.”
An Interstate 70 project also promises more U.S. 40 traffic through Wayne County towns, such as Centerville. Backups can delay emergency responders, and there can be construction-related crashes.
“The excess traffic is a problem,” Spears said.
Another concern is a U.S. 40 bridge replacement over Nolands Fork west of Centerville. Spears learned Jan. 23 that the bridge project will overlap with the interstate project, although neither project timeline is firmly established. The INDOT website indicates the bridge project was planned for spring 2022 construction. It is among projects rescheduled because of COVID-19.
Spears expressed to INDOT concerns about traffic impacts with U.S. 40 being closed while I-70 work is in progress. He hopes the bridge will be constructed before the I-70 construction has advanced to Centerville from the state line, where work is expected to begin in late 2024 or early 2025.
The $3 million bridge project will replace the 145-foot-long, three-span bridge built in 1925 with a 214-foot-long, three-span bridge built with composite prestressed concrete beams, according to INDOT’s online project plans.
Concerns such as those Patel and Spears expressed are just what the Revive I-70 project team hoped to hear.
“You are the folks who are living in this area, working in this area, driving this interstate,” said Mindy Peterson, a public involvement director for Parsons, during the formal presentation. “You see the issues, you know the things that you want to have addressed, you know the problems that you’re having, so if there’s a trouble spot…share that information.”
The project is still in the preliminary study phase, Peterson said. Expectations are to repave and widen I-70 to six lanes, upgrade 40 bridges along the interstate and address the 40 and 35 interchanges that no longer meet design standards.
Sometime during spring, there will be a public hearing where members of the public each have three minutes to speak about the project.
Project information is available at ReviveI70.com and the website contains links to sign up for project updates via email or text message.