Tipton County Graphic (Map)

TIPTON — Tipton County has agreed to accept a proposal by the Indiana Department of Transportation that would give local control of Indiana 28 from U.S. 31 through the city of Tipton in exchange for nearly $9 million and less semi-truck traffic on downtown city streets.

The Tipton County Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 on Wednesday to accept the deal, just two days after making the proposal known to the public. Commissioner Nancy Cline, R-District 3, was the one “no” vote.

The proposal is multifaceted and includes the following:

  • The state would relinquish control of Indiana 28 from Country Road 560 West to Indiana 19. The county would be responsible for the stretch of road from 560 West to the western limits of the city of Tipton, and it would become a county road and no longer be a state road. The city would be responsible for the stretch of Indiana 28 that runs through its limits to Indiana 19, and Indiana 19 south of Jefferson Street to Park Road; both stretches of road would become city streets and no longer be a state road.
  • The state would take over Ash Street and Park Road and that would become the new Indiana 19. INDOT would also reconstruct Park Road to add curbs and gutters.
  • Semi-truck traffic would be diverted to Division Road. Instead of semi-trucks getting off of U.S. 31 on Indiana 28, the state would erect signs instructing such traffic to get off on Division Road and then head south on Indiana 19 to either continue on Indiana 19 or on Indiana 28. Notably, local traffic, such as farmers and local business truck traffic, would be able to drive on Indiana 28 through the city limits.
  • The state would take responsibility of the bridge on Ash Street just south of Jefferson Street, while the county would take over the bridge on Indiana 19 over Big Cicero Creek and also the bridge on Indiana 28 over Buck Creek.
  • INDOT would maintain winter maintenance, such as salting and snow plowing, of Indiana 28 from its subdistrict office near the county jail to U.S. 31 for the indefinite future.

Total compensation from the state would be $8,882,240 million, with the city receiving a little more than $7.3 million and the county receiving the remaining $1.5 million. However, the commissioners and Tipton Mayor Tom Dolezal agreed to split the payment at an even 50/50. Notably, the money does not need to be spent on road infrastructure or similar projects, though both Dolezal and the commissioners said they’d take advantage of matching grant programs for road and improvements projects to make the $8.8 million go even further.

It was the city administration that initially came to INDOT with the proposal of the state agency relinquishing Indiana 28. A formal agreement between the county, mayor’s office and INDOT will be signed at a later date, County Engineer Phil Beer said. It’s unclear when exactly that will be and when the ownership changes will take formal effect.

Control of the major thoroughfare through the city’s downtown will give the city more freedom to do what it wants with the road and intersections in terms of redevelopment and revitalization.

Perhaps more importantly, the lack of semi-truck traffic would allow for a more walkable and pedestrian-friendly downtown and overall better downtown experience, officials say.

“I believe it’s a great opportunity to control 28 and these areas,” Dolezal said.

Accepting the proposal would also make it more likely, though not guaranteed, that the state would build an interchange at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Division Road as part of the state’s plan to turn U.S. 31 from Indianapolis to South Bend into a free-flowing highway with no traffic lights.

The interchange at Division and U.S. 31 has been a top priority for county elected officials since March of 2020 when they unexpectedly learned funding for the intersection had been pulled.

INDOT told the county this past March that it was going back to the drawing board in regards to its plan for interchanges and overpasses along U.S. 31 within the county after the commissioners rejected a proposal from INDOT that would’ve included a full interchange at U.S. 31 and Division Road in exchange for nixing a previously planned overpass and the county taking ownership of Indiana 213.

While the commissioners approved the proposal, it wasn’t without some concerns.

The major concern was long-term upkeep of Division Road and the stretch of Indiana 28 from 560 West to the western limits of the city.

Both Beer and Commissioner Tracey Powell, R-District 2, felt the $1.5 million the county would get was woefully inadequate given how much it was taking over and for the fact Division Road would see an increase in heavy semi-truck traffic.

That’s why Powell said Wednesday he would not vote “yes” for the proposal unless the money split between the city and county was 50/50; Dolezal agreed.

Cline’s “no” vote was largely predicated on the fact that the proposal was not made public until last Monday despite private talks between the state, county and city having originally started in August.

INDOT set the deadline for a formal answer to Friday, forcing the issue to become public and on the commissioners to make a decision. The commissioners tabled the issue Nov. 22 and scheduled a special meeting Wednesday to vote on the proposal.

The issue did not come before the Tipton City Council as the proposal only needs signatures from the two governments’ executives, i.e. the commissioners and city mayor.

“This has really bothered me because the public hasn’t had ample time to speak up, and here we are being pressured,” Cline said. “I don’t want to be pressured to make decisions, especially as big as this one in the impact it’s going to have on everybody.”

Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at tyler.juranovich@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich.

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