$8M in county bridge bonds OK’d, library sidewalk connections won’t be as late as feared

On Tuesday night, the Monroe County council unanimously approved the issuance of $8 million in bonds to pay for a new Fullerton Pike bridge over Clear Creek.

The 524-foot structure—which will feature a 6-foot median, a 10-foot multi-use path and a 5-foot sidewalk—will span Clear Creek Trail and the creek itself.

The bridge is part of a bigger new road project that will complete a Fullerton Pike connection from Rockport Road on the western end, to the Rogers Street roundabout on the eastern end.

On a related note, the council also got an indication that sidewalk connections to the recently opened Monroe County Public library branch would not depend on the timing of the Fullerton Pike project.

Councilor Geoff McKim took the occasion of the bridge bond issuance to ask county highway director Lisa Ridge about the nearby Monroe County Public Library (MCPL) branch—the grand opening was held on June 9. The new library branch sits near the eastern end of the road project.

The new library branch building was constructed without its planned pedestrian connections—from the Fullerton Pike (Gordon Pike) sidewalk to the two building entrances facing the street.

The idea was to put off building the sidewalk connections, and to construct them in concert with the county’s road and bridge project.

But the Fullerton Pike road construction project has been delayed, which means that the wait for pedestrian access to the new library building could be around 18 months or more.

McKim told Ridge, “A lot of people have been a little bit frustrated that the library…didn’t build connections from the sidewalk…to their front door.”

Ridge indicated that she would later in the week be meeting with the county planning department and the library to work out something between everyone to make a temporary installation—until the road construction project reaches the library site.

Responding to an emailed question from The B Square, MCPL director Grier Carson confirmed that the library intends in short order to install connections from the sidewalk to the building. Those connections will serve library patrons who arrive on foot, until the permanent installation is made in concert with the road construction project.

Carson wrote that the work should start “within the next few weeks, depending on how the site grading work goes.” The sidewalk connection project is not expected to take more than a few weeks once the library’s engineers and contractors mobilize, according to Carson.

One of the people who was frustrated that the library didn’t build the sidewalk connections from the start was Bloomington resident Greg Alexander. Four days after the library opened, on June 13, Alexander addressed the county council on the topic. He reprised his remarks to the MCPL board on June 21. On both occasions, Alexander pointed out that the connections were shown in the building plans, but had not been constructed.

The building plans include the notation: “FUTURE SIDEWALK — TO BE INSTALLED BY OTHERS WITH GORDON PIKE IMPROVEMENT PROJECT” (By the time Fullerton Pike reaches the eastern edge of the project, the name changes to Gordon Pike.)

Alexander called the approach “an IOU” for sidewalk connections. Alexander told the county council: “This is not an uncorrectable problem. We could build an appropriate sidewalk tomorrow. It is not hard to do that.”

The delay in bid letting for the Fullerton Pike project—now set for November instead of July this year—is related to the approval of a flood plain-related permit, according to Ridge. It’s called a Conditional Letter of Map Revision, which needs an OK from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The original project design called for a roundabout on the western end of the project, at the intersection of Rockport Road and Fullerton Pike. But Ridge told county councilors on Tuesday that the county could not afford a roundabout. “We’d looked into the option of putting a roundabout at that intersection, but that would have added one and a half million to $2 million of cost to the project,” Ridge said.

The new project description says that the intersection will feature a “fully actuated traffic signal.”

The project description also includes connections between the multi-use paths along Fullerton Pike, leading to the new bridge, and the Clear Creek Trail below the bridge: “Ramps will be constructed to connect the Clear Creek trail with the sidewalk and multi-use path.”

About the ramps connecting the trails, McKim said on Tuesday, “This is going to be our first actual multi-use trail interchange—where you have one trail interchanging with another at a different grade.” He added, “So I’m really interested in how that’s gonna work.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Ridge said the Fullerton Pike construction project is expected to start after April of 2024, and take until the end of 2025 to be completed.

The $8 million bridge bond will be paid with tax increment finance (TIF) revenue. That’s something Monroe County redevelopment commissioner Jim Shelton supported, speaking from the public mic at Tuesday’s meeting.

2 thoughts on “$8M in county bridge bonds OK’d, library sidewalk connections won’t be as late as feared

  1. The bond will be paid off by TIF funds AND the County’s Major Bridge fund.

  2. really talking about my own limits here but as an activist my imagination is challenged for how to tilt at this particular windmill. “coming soon” is enough like as-good-as-it’ll-get that it’s almost not worth saying anything more about it. but golly i’d love a timeline. is it coming soon like when Pizza X sent an email saying it’s my last chance to order the Reuben featured pizza, and then they switched to the Shrimp Scampi just a couple weeks later? or is it coming soon like when Peach Cobbler Factory announced they’d open the week of Christmas-new years?

    the thing that i find most poignant about my limited work on this MCPL issue is that people really just expect it. the experience of being a pedestrian in this city is one of constant delays, excuses, failed promises, bad design, worse implementation, and outright institutional hostility. we’re used to it and it’s normal to us. “of course pedestrians will be waiting a year or more for a connection, but at least they have a plan to do something someday..that’s better than other places!” my wife told me.

    of course.

    we need to work on that attitude. we’re voters, we’re citizens, we’re patrons, we’re customers, we’re donors, and we’re volunteers. we are as important when walking or biking as when we are when we are driving. when our public institutions like MCPL, the county planning department, and the county council fail us in this way, we should be outraged at the insult and the harm.

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