Rerouting semi-truck traffic out of the City of Tipton is a rather old idea for the City of Tipton. Logistically it makes sense for these semis to travel through the City of Tipton on IN28; however, this traffic has led to significant safety concerns and is hindering the ability for the downtown to attract outdoor seating and increase the walkability of downtown. With that said, the recent announcement through news outlets that the City of Tipton and Tipton County had reached an agreement with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to accept responsibility for the future maintenance of IN28, rerouting semi-truck traffic to Division Road, and converting Park Road into a state highway came as a surprise to many in the community, including the Tipton County Chamber of Commerce. The surprise comes because the process never involved any public hearing or community engagement opportunity to allow residents to voice their support or concerns over the agreement. Both the City and County leadership unilaterally accepted the most significant maintenance infrastructure liability in the history of our community, all without seeking the input of their constituents.
Furthermore, great concern over the relinquishment arises because it has never been stated by either the Mayor or Commissioners if the offer from INDOT was reviewed and analyzed by an engineering firm and a government finance firm. The engineering firm would explore the long-term maintenance expenses, determine the current building standard used to construct each road, and make recommendations on improving the roadways. The government finance firm then analyzes this information and provides a strategy on how both the City and County would pay for these maintenance and improvement items. The City and County have access to their respective government finance firms. The City and County have experience working with qualified engineering firms that could have provided answers to the numerous questions that are still outstanding. Below are examples of the questions that have arisen since the deal’s announcement.
Outstanding concerns and questions
- How many semi-trucks are estimated to travel on Park Road after relinquishment, and is the newly repaved Park Road wide enough in its present state to handle this traffic? If not, how much more of right-of-way will be needed to meet INDOT’s specifications?
- How will the safety of students be assured, as they would be forced to cross at a crosswalk across a state highway as they walk towards the downtown area? Will a traffic light be installed at the intersection of South Main St and Park Road to ensure their safety, given the anticipated increase in vehicular and heavy truck traffic along that route?
- How will the safety of students be protected as they drive to and from school, especially as they enter and leave the student parking lot, if Park Road is recast as a state highway?
- With the official truck route identified as Division Road, do we know if Division Road was constructed to the specifications required to handle 10,000 vehicles per day?
- What maintenance schedule was identified to ensure this new truck route is sustainably maintained for the next decade?
- What are Division Road’s annual snow removal and treatment estimates to support the road as a truck route? Is our County Highway Department adequately staffed and does it have the resources to acquire the materials to treat the roadway properly?
- INDOT’s upcoming project to rebuild IN28 would have addressed the drainage concerns in specific areas in the City of Tipton. Will the City of Tipton and Tipton Municipal Utilities address those areas, and when can we expect a timeline on those improvements?
- The original agreement offered to allow local delivery semi-truck traffic only (i.e., Park 100 Foods, restaurant deliveries, and retail deliveries), which would enable IN28 to remain in its present condition without any rebuild required. How does the allowance of local agriculture traffic impact the need for a rebuild?
- Tipton County already has a higher income tax rate than 84 other counties in Indiana. Do we know how this increased infrastructure maintenance will impact the income tax rate?
Ultimately, the Tipton County Chamber of Commerce’s concern is that the executives for Tipton County and the City of Tipton entered into an agreement that was not vetted through proper channels to ensure the taxpayers of this community, both residents and businesses, would not be negatively impacted. Furthermore, the Commissioner’s and Mayor’s decisions to relinquish IN28 and IN19 were made without any public hearings or proper advertisements for the public’s benefit. Though we believe removing truck traffic through the downtown is necessary to revitalize downtown, we do not support efforts that do not value the public’s input or allow for public engagement on such monumental decisions having implications far into the future.
It is particularly worrisome that the additional financial burden that comes with the assumption of local responsibility will drain local coffers of important funds. These funds might be put to better use in improving and making the Tipton community more attractive to those who already call Tipton home, and to those who would be drawn to a community having great amenities and high-achieving schools.
If the new financial burdens that come with the adoption of these roadways reduces our ability to build a better and more desirable community, then we may have lost the control needed to create the community and future we want and need. It is for this reason that the Tipton County Chamber of Commerce has grave misgivings in the handling of the decision to take control of these state highways without public input and professional review.