Bidding for construction of a $1.25 million Belton curve project tentatively set for May has now been pushed back to October 2006.
Chief District Engineer Ted Merryman says the district two engineering staff has continued to press ahead to get the safety project to construction as quickly as possible
"We're pretty frustrated, but the issues we've encountered on this project are fairly typical of the obstacles we face on many of our projects. Whenever you deal with legal, environmental, and engineering issues it sometimes takes longer than any of us would like to get a project to the construction phase. Our people are dedicated to pushing ahead with these important safety improvements as quickly as circumstances allow," Merryman said.
"The district two right of way staff was unable to negotiate settlements on all parcels along the project. Those parcels were turned over to our legal department to negotiate settlements through the legal process. This has resulted in delays getting the utilities relocated outside the construction limits of the project."
In addition, an application was submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for wetland areas the staff determined fell under an existing "nationwide permit."
Through the process the Corps staff ruled that the project would require an "individual permit" which is a much longer process. That permit has been submitted and is now under evaluation by the Corps.
The curve, about a half mile south of the Belton community at mile marker 6.2, was the site of 22 crashes, including three fatalities between October 1999 and December 2003. Approximately 3,000 vehicles per day travel U.S. 431 near Belton in Muhlenberg County.
"We identified this as a high crash site in 2003 and started efforts to obtain funding for needed safety improvements. We started initial planning work in August of 2003," said Planning Engineer Kevin McClearn.
"On several occasions I've said that when you mention a site and immediately everyone in the county recognizes the location, you know the issue needs to be addressed."
The planned improvements are expected to cost about $1.25 million.
"During our public hearing on the project last year, several of the property owners expressed support for this project and a desire to help speed up the land acquisition process to speed completion of the work. Even with that level of cooperation from the landowners, there are going to be issues that require extra effort," McClearn said.
In March of 2004 landowners cooperated with state highway maintenance crews to allow work to cut down a hill that reduced visibility on the curve. At that time a new skid-resistant material was applied to the roadway surface, and the shoulder was widened on the inside of the curve.