TIPTON – Some officials for the Town of Windfall are against Tipton County taking ownership of Indiana 213, fearing the county and the small town would not have the resources to maintain the 14 mile stretch of road.
The Tipton County Commissioners held a public hearing Monday on Indiana Department of Transportation’s new proposal regarding building a full interchange at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Division Road. The now nearly yearlong issue has created some anger among both the public and elected officials as they are frustrated the county was put in this position in the first place.
As previously reported by the Tribune, INDOT’s new proposal includes building a full diamond interchange at U.S. 31 and Division Road for the estimated cost of $18 million at the state’s expense, if the county takes ownership of Indiana 213 in 2025 and gives up a previously planned overpass on U.S. 31.
Overpasses are currently planned for Division Road, 600 South, 500 South, 300 North and 450 North. All other county roads would be turned into cul-de-sacs where they meet the highway. The state also told the county it plans on building a roundabout at Indiana 28 and Indiana 213.
Most of Indiana 213 runs through the unincorporated part of the county, though a small section of it runs through the heart of Windfall. While the county would be responsible for maintaining the majority of the road, the small sliver in Windfall would fall under the responsibility of the town.
That would not be tenable, Denise Ryan, a Windfall town council member, told the commissioners, as she believes the town wouldn’t be able to pay for future improvements.
“I feel like you’re throwing Windfall underneath the bridge because 213 is Windfall’s livelihood,” she said, and added that she’s speaking for most of the town. “I do not think the county has enough manpower or vehicles to take care of 213 for the people that work, live or drive through there every day.
“That’s going to put us to have to pay for paving. That’s going to have to make us pay for sidewalks, makes us pay for street signs.”
County Commissioner Dennis Henderson said he and Highway Superintendent Bret Morris had similar concerns following their recent meeting with INDOT. Henderson added that the state did say it would resurface all of Indiana 213 before handing over the reins to the county.
Still, Phil Beer, county engineer, estimates it would cost the county $4.5 to $5 million in upkeep costs over a 10-15 year period.
Still, Henderson said the county is pursuing possible other avenues to get a full interchange. He said the county stopped receiving phone calls from prospective businesses after those businesses learned funding for the U.S. 31 and Division Road interchange had not been allocated.
“We’re still looking for options, and we hope to heck we can find some,” he said.
But the time to decide on INDOT’s proposal is near.
According to the commissioners, the state is wanting to hear the county’s answer to the proposal in the next few weeks.
Beer said the state wants an answer at that time because it’s currently conducting the environmental impact studies for the full U.S. 31 project. That massive project will transform U.S. 31 into a “free-flow” highway with no stoplights or railway crossings from Indianapolis to South Bend.
The state’s current plan calls for an overpass at U.S. 31 and Division Road so if that becomes an interchange, the state would need to adjust its environmental impact study.
Whatever county officials choose, it’s a decision they never thought they’d have to make.
County officials were told about a year ago the plan to build an interchange at Division Road at U.S. 31 was unlikely to happen after money needed had never been appropriated by the General Assembly, leaving the county with only one major interchange at Indiana 28. This came a few months after county officials were told there would be an interchange.
That sounded the alarm bells for county and business officials, who believe the future of the city and county relies on having as much access to U.S. 31 as possible.
Since February of last year, the county has pushed hard to reinstate an interchange at U.S. 31 and Division Road, and the county is now closer than ever, but Commissioner Tracey Powell is not happy the county is in the position it’s in.
“Hamilton County has 8 miles of this compared to our 13, and they get four interchanges, and we have no additional interchanges besides 28,” he said. “In my opinion, that’s INDOT picking winners and losers, and we’re a loser. And they’re getting two more. That’s the point, so that’s why we’re really trying to push that Tipton County are taxpayers also ... That interchange is important to Tipton County.”