The good news – Hancock County and Southern Hancock County will get some relief along U.S. 52.
The bad news – the relief is still five years out.
Hancock County engineer Gary Pool confirmed to Giant FM that a bypass road off County Road 500 West, south of U.S. 52, was approved by INDOT this week. The bypass project comes with a price tag of about $750,000. The state will cover 80 percent of the project, while Hancock County will have to fund the rest of the project.
Pool told Giant FM the relief, while not major, will still help residents and motorists.
“The majority of the relief will be during school arrival and departure, as well as sports and community events. Five to 10 percent improvement in safety and capacity. It’s not earth shattering, but will definitely make the cost worth it,” Pool told Giant FM.
Initial drawings had the bypass extending from West Stinemyer Road from County Road 550 West to County Road 500 West. There had also been discussions of a road near the Southern Hancock County school district bus garage on County Road 500 and going through land designated for an expansion of the New Palestine Cemetery to County Road 550 West. Under that proposal, the town of New Palestine owns half of the land in that route, thus causing the price to be lower.
Pool told Giant FM there is not a decision on the exact location. However, Pool did tell Giant FM one option is off the table.
“The cemetery is not going to dedicate right of way, so we won’t be going the southern route as there is no incentive to have the taxpayer buy land and build a quarter million dollars worth of road there. If I have to buy the land, I have better routes with better benefit but that is a year out on design,” Pool said.
He did say the route may be a direct connection to Stinemyer and then either an east-west running road or tying into one of the school entrances.
“Either way, it will take some time to sort that out,” Pool said.
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.