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March 27, 2013

Committee studying C.R. 200 North improvements

LaGRANGE —  A committee has been formed to study how to improve C.R. 200 North.

County Commissioner Jac Price said a committee has been formed to develop solutions or options for the road issue that has been pending for months. The committee is expected to make a presentation at a joint County Council-comissioners meeting April 8 in the County Annex Building.

The issue has been before county officials since last fall. At a joint meeting of the Lagrange County Council and commissioners in October, a section of 200 North, an east-west county road between 450 West and 625 West, had been targeted for straightening and widening. At that time the council and commissioners gave the go-ahead for Jeff Brill of the highway department, along with American Structurepoint engineering, to initiate the planned improvements. In November, county officials chose a dirt berm for the edge of the road rather than a paved bike/buggy path, bringing the estimated total cost in at around $1.9 million.

The options

The options presented back in October were for improvements to 200 North between 625 West and 450 West. The goals was to level sight-inhibiting hills and straightening out sharp curves. Two options were presented: one for a 1.7 mile segment, another for a .81 mile segment. The design options offered were for the width of a paved bicycle berm or an unpaved shoulder.

The road-widening options were to make it 29 feet or 22 feet wide. The longer of the two projects was quoted at $3.4 million. The shorter distance would be closer to $1.9 million, depending on the berm choice. The council voted to go forward with the narrower roadbed in November.

At a joint meeting of the council and commissioners on March 11, Brill presented a bill for $180,000 to cover the right of way design and other engineering fees to move the project forward. The presentation of the bill was met with questions from one veteran and two new council members about expenditures. Rather than begin the same discussion over again, Price asked for a motion to pay the bill or a motion to table payment. No action came forward; the issue was left without resolution. Brill warned that the project would not get any cheaper as time passes.

Public concerned

The issue has been followed by local residents and business owners along 200 North.

Steve Raber has lived along 200 North for many years. He owns West Point Woodworking, a business on that road.

“I was very disappointed that the issue was dropped,” Raber said. “It is a very dangerous road and we all know something needs to be done. I am happy to hear that Jac Price has encouraged those who are in doubt to form a committee and get together on some kind of solution.”

Raber said of all the 34 landowners whose property abuts the road, he estimates the majority want the improvements to proceed.

Dorothy Hostetler is the general manager of PalletOne, located on 200 North. Her father Josey Bontrager, started the family lumber business as Shipshewana Hardwoods back in the early 1970s. She said her family and her neighbors have advocated road improvements for many years.

“PalletOne is encouraged the 200 North project is still under consideration.”  

Dozens of PalletOne trucks leave and enter the processing plant daily. Besides the trucks, there is also active truck traffic from other businesses along 500 West, both north and south of 200 North. For Hostetler’s family the issue is personal.

“Our family has lived or worked along this road more than 40 years,” Hostetler said. According to Hostetler there have been fatal accidents as a direct result of the many hills and lack of a wide berm. She cited one particularly steep embankment as contributing to one crash where a man was thrown from his wagon and then it rolled over him.

Mose Miller has lived along the road for decades and feels conditions are dangerous.

“We all know it needs to be widened and straightened,” Miller said. “But we seem to be out here all alone with no voice in what happens to the road. Everyone was commenting a while back about seeing three vehicles side by side on the crest of the hill. One was passing a wagon and another was coming in the opposite direction.

“It is dangerous along this road. Maybe they need to increase the patrol over here and at least slow down the speed while they decide when they want to correct the road.”

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