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Residents Along Old National Road Say It's Time for Repair
March 26, 2008 - “It’s a pitiful mess and it’s not safe.”
That’s all a disgusted Dave Mattix could say as he stood in the rain looking west along the Old National Road. Mattix, who’s lived on the road for the last 10 years, said he’s tired of being forced to drive 10 or 15 miles per hour on the road, which is strewn with deep, jagged potholes.
“I know there are other roads in the county that need attention, too,” Mattix said. “But Old National Road is in a lot worse shape than many of them. I’ve ruined two (tire) rims on my car at $150 apiece. It’s such a mess that it’s impossible to miss the holes.”
Henry County Commissioner Phil Estridge agrees that Old National Road is in dire need of serious repair. “It’s supposed to get done (this year),” Estridge told The Banner. “It’s on the list to get done this year. It’s a priority, as far as I’m concerned. It’s one of many.”
Estridge said he’s awaiting a paving bid from Milestone Contractors for resurfacing Old National Road. Milestone may not actually do the work on the road, according to Estridge. However, he said any work on Old National Road would depend on how fast workers are able to remove a railroad trestle on western end of the road, which connects Dunreith and Knightstown and runs parallel to U.S. 40.
Mattix said anything short of the road’s total overhaul would be a waste of time. “All (resurfacing) will do is make the road higher,” he said. “It’s not going to fix the inherent problem of the flooding. When you have heavy rain, it’s like a river flowing across the road. They need to fix the berms so that it’s safer and controls the water.”
Mattix was referring to the road’s pronounced edge, where pavvement meets the road’s shoulder. “There are no berms attached to the road. It drops straight down to dirt, which makes it unsafe,” said Mattix, who admitted he wasn’t a roadway engineer or paving contractor.
Estridge said he thinks it’s unlikely that Old National Road will enjoy a complete overhaul. “It’s probably going to be a cover job,” Estridge said. “That road probably has a good base on it. I don’t think that’s gonna be a problem. I hope we don’t have to completely redo it. (Henry County workers) might do some patching, then blacktopping over it. That may be the only reasonable thing we can do. Right now, total road reconstruction costs $1 million per mile. (The county) may have to end up doing it ourselves because the quote may be astronomical. I don’t think that road needs a reconstruction.”
Estridge added that, at one time, Old National Road was constructed and maintained by the State of Indiana. He said that fact is what makes him think the road has a good foundation, one that won’t need rebuilt.
Dick Leakey, another Old National Road resident, echoed Mattix’s concerns about merely patching and resurfacing the road. “That’s just a joke,” a frustrated Leakey said. “They patched it in the rain last time and within a week all the patches were washed out. In three days it was all gone.”
Both Leakey and Mattix agreed that other county roads need repair in the wake of an odd winter that saw lots of freezing and thawing, which adversely effects pavement.
According to Leakey, Old National Road is the subject of tourist interest, since it’s part of the original National Road. “(The county) wants to see Old National Road become a historic landmark,” he said. “They have tours through here. I’ll bet it’s a pretty bumpy ride in one those old Model T Fords. Some of those guys probably don’t want to drive their cars down through here. It’d tear the hell out of ‘em.”
Vintage cars may be extra fragile, but Leakey said even his modern vehicles have suffered damage due to poor road conditions. “I’ve lost mufflers,” he said. Fed up with repairing his vehicles and creeping along Old National Road to his home, Mattix said it’s time for the county fish or cut bait.
“I’ve been here 10 years and all they’ve ever done was patch holes,” Mattix said. “It’s needed serious work for 10 years.”
Estridge told The Banner the Milestone bid for Old National Road work is due any time.
CORRECTION PUBLISHED IN APRIL 2, 2008 ISSUE: "In a Page 1 story last week about the condition of Old National Road in Knightstown, The Banner mistakenly reported that work on the road won’t begin until a bridge overpass is removed. In fact, road work is pending completion of a bridge over Buck Creek just west of Ogden. Henry County Commissioner Phil Estridge said a private firm was hired to overhaul the bridge, which he said could be completed as early as May. The Banner regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused." - Ed.
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