The project to rebuild Business 50 all the way across Washington may take as many as five years, but the first segment is ready to begin. During an update with the engineering firms, the city and INDOT at Wednesday night’s meeting, it was announced that the first part of the project will begin next week.

The east side project has been described as the easiest. It will consist of milling and repaving Business 50 from State Street to General Tony Jones Drive. Contractors for the project say they will begin milling work next Wednesday.

“The east segment, we can get that done,” said Washington Mayor Joe Wellman. “In fact, it will be done in the next few weeks, actually.”

All of the work on the east segment should be done quickly except for a right hand passing area at Park Street. Vectren will have to relocate a gas line before that work can be done.

While the paving crews are in town the city is also planning for them to do some additional work. “We’re going to have them do some temporary work to the Meridian Street intersection to fix that up in the next week or so,” said Wellman.

While the first section may go quickly officials are warning this process to plan and then rebuild the road will be a marathon. “This project is going to run through 2023, ’24, ’25,” said Wellman. “To get that finished product we all have to recognize it’s going to be a bear for awhile. There will definitely be someone different in the mayor’s office and the request I need to ask of everybody is patience. We all have to keep the final project in mind.”

At the meeting with about 60 residents and interested persons much of the emphasis was on planning and getting input from the public. “Input does matter and this is the time to do it,” said VS Engineering project manager Nick Jahn. “Since our meeting in September we heard a lot of things from folks, and we have started implementing those changes in the project design. For instance, we were planning far less invasive work on the drainage on the west side. We heard it loud and clear we need to rehab all of the pipes there as well. We have started incorporating that into the project.”

An additional change that may be coming is the way the west side project, which stretches from Southeast Third Street to the west city limits, may be done. The original plan was to work on the utilities and then the following year do the paving. That could be subject to change.

“The way things are lining up, this project on the west end, it might make a lot of sense to do them all as one project,” said Jahn. “For this project it seems to be a reasonable path forward. That decision though has not been made yet.”

Officials point out that much of the engineering work for the most difficult part of the project is still in the preliminary stage. The area that stretches from Southeast Third Street to State Street is expected to last for at least two years. Officials are projecting the cost of that section, just for the street work, at $11 million. It will include both road work and a lot of utility relocation.

“The utilities run the length of the project,” said Jahn. “If you are going to spend this much on surface improvements there would be good reason to replace end of life assets under the ground so you don’t have to dig up good money five years from now.”

Jahn calls the problems with maintaining traffic through the center section during construction tricky. At this time officials are looking at maintaining a single lane. “That is burdensome,” he said.

Residents spent about a half hour asking questions about the project. “I’m worried about how much it is going to come onto my property,” said Stacy Culver, who lives on the east end of the project. “How much is going to come onto my front yard and the flow of the water? I do hope it goes quickly.”

“It’s moving forward,” added Charlie Heller, who also has a business along the project. “There are some changes from the last meeting but they are all positive changes. It is still a work in progress. I am feeling good. They have dealt with some specific issues to my property. They have taken it into consideration. I think it will move forward as long as people give good positive input.”

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