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Council OKs funding for Phase one of Lanesville, S.R. 64 connector

In a 4-1 vote Monday night, the Harrison County Council approved a request made by County Engineer Kevin Russel for $28,000 for geotechnical work to begin the first phase of the Lanesville Interchange and Lanesville-Connector Road project.
The funding for the geotechnical work, which is required by the state, would allow the engineer’s office to do soil and rock studies on the ground between the Lanesville Interchange, from the interchange north to George’s Hill Road. That work is the beginning of the overall project. Phase one will eventually widen that portion of the road to five lanes, two lanes going each direction along with a turning lane.
The second phase includes the building of the new Lanesville-Connector Road which is still in the planning stage and still has not been fully funded.
The request caused some controversy and lengthy discussion among members of the council, other county officials and Lanesville-area residents in attendance at the meeting.
Councilman William (Bill) Nichols made a motion not to approve the request. Nichols’ motion died for a lack of a second.
Nichols had previously said he would vote against Russel’s request because his district included the area where the new road would be built, and he had spent a large amount of time speaking with residents in that area.
‘Way over the majority of them are against this project,’ Nichols said.
Councilman Gordon Pendleton then made a motion to approve Russel’s request, which was seconded by Councilman Ralph Sherman. The motion carried 4-1 with only Nichols voting against Pendleton’s motion. Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads was absent.
Lanesville resident Bill Osborne asked the council not to approve the funds for the geotechnical work for the first phase of the project.
‘I would suggest that at the least, this geotechnical work be postponed,’ Osborne said.
Osborne told council members the categorical exclusion obtained for Phase one was not appropriate based on Indiana Dept. of Transportation rules. He said those rules state there cannot be any substantial public opposition to the proposed project and the project cannot include converting a street into a higher order roadway. Osborne said it was clear there is substantial opposition to the project and Phase one converts a portion of Old Lanesville Road into a five-lane highway. He added the new road would do nothing to help traffic congestion on Interstate 64 and S.R. 64.
‘You fix the artery, not build a way around it,’ Osborne told the council.
Russel assured council members that everything that needed to be done in preparation for Phase one of the project had been completed correctly. He said if the geotechnical work was not funded, it would significantly delay the whole project.
‘Everyone who has needed to sign off on this project has signed off on this project,’ Russel said. ‘We’ve done our homework, and we’ve done the right thing.’
In other matters Monday night, the council approved a $20,000 request for legal services made by the commissioners to watch over legislation that might affect Harrison County’s share of riverboat revenue; a $50,000 request by the Regional Sewer District as seed money for projects; a $50,000 request for Ice Miller for consulting services made by the commissioners regarding the proposed Interstate 64 interchange; $10,000 for the Chaplain’s Association for emergency assistance; and $150,000 for the Gerdon Youth Center’s operations.