If Hancock County and Southern Hancock County schools officials get their wish, they may see some easement from major traffic and congestion along U.S. 52 in the future.
Gary Pool, county engineer, is optimistic his plan to create a bypass road off County Road 500 West, south of U.S. 52, will be just the answer.
Officials should know in March if the proposed bypass project has been accepted by INDOT, and includes a price tag of about $750,000. The state will cover 80 percent of the project, while Hancock County would have to fund the remainder of the project, which would extend from West Stinemyer Road from County Road 550 West to County Road 500 West. Another possible, cheaper proposal has a road near the Southern Hancock County school district bus garage on County Road 500 and go through land designated for an expansion of New Palestine Cemetery to County Road 550 West. New Palestine owns half of the land in that route, while the rest would have to be acquired. Due to the town owning half of the land, the cost would be less for the road.
Any road project wouldn’t begin until 2025, according to officials.
Pool told Giant FM while it is hard to quantify how vital the road proposal is to reducing congestion, it does have some cost benefit.
“It has a cost benefit ratio of 6. Competitive, but not at the top of the list. Most of the benefit is accident reduction. It won’t have a large effect on congestion,” Pool said.
Pool said the proposed road will redirect some traffic, however, county officials estimate 5-10 percent of 52’s traffic in the analysis for the grant process.
“There are many more traffic problems than money to fix them throughout the region. Roads and infrastructure projects are much more expensive than people estimate. It is always competitive for funds. I think this particular grant will be competitive, but I have others I’d like to see first. That said, I try to win all of them. I live here, my friends and family drive these roads. However, if the new roadway performs as we hope, we would see a reduction of 4-8 percent accidents. But there are intersections in Indianapolis where people are injured or killed every month. They want the grants as well,” Pool told Giant FM.
Officials with Southern Hancock Schools also welcome any relief a new road could bring.
Wes Anderson, community relations director for the district, told Giant FM the more ways traffic can get onto the New Palestine High School campus, the better it is for relieving congestion on U.S. 52.
“This road addition to 550 West will be a great asset to the families that live southwest of New Palestine High School. We also want to make navigating our campuses as easy as possible for parents and student drivers. Keeping them off 52 as much as possible will help us do that,” Anderson said.
In addition, the school district is considering adding more access points with its renovation plans for New Palestine High School.
“While we haven’t finalized the renovation plans, we are hopeful to be able to include another access point to campus from 450 West. Keeping traffic off of 52 as much as possible is a goal for us in how we change of these parking logistics around New Palestine High School,” Anderson said.
Regardless of what the renovation plans look like, Anderson said the goal remains the same.
“Our main goal for the layout at New Palestine High School is to separate bus traffic, student driver traffic, and parent carline traffic from each other. We think this is safer for all three of those groups. Our rough concept includes moving bus parking to the north end of the New Palestine High School lot. In this plan, we would close the 52 entrance to all other traffic during the school day. We hope that will reduce congestion on 52 and make traffic flow more smoothly around campus,” Anderson told Giant FM.