Starke County Council Discusses Road Funding Goals

Starke County Highway Department workers add rip rap to bridges.
Starke County Highway Department workers add rip rap to bridges.

A committee of Starke County officials recommends accelerating completion of the county’s bridge replacement schedule with one-time transportation money from the state.

Commissioner Kent Danford, councilman Bryan Cavender, Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Charlie Weaver and Auditor Kay Chaffins met several times with highway superintendent Rik Ritzler to discuss the  best uses for the money. Starke County will get a lump sum payment of $890,000 from the state. Of that 75 percent, or $667,500 must be spent on roads and bridges, while the remaining 25 percent is not restricted. The county can also draw down up to $500,000 per year in matching funds for INDOT-approved projects that meet local standards.

Ritzler says  accelerating that program will give the county the best bang for its buck. The bridge replacement program started three years ago. So far about half of the county’s bridges are done. Under the accelerated timeline, all but the bridge on 700 East will be done by the end of 2018. Ritzler says it will be finished in 2019.

He adds about half of the county economic development income tax money annually is allocated to the bridge program. Once it’s complete, Ritzler says that money can be used for infrastructure, new roads, road improvements and other projects.

Once the bridge program is complete, the committee recommends putting $125,000 of the annual CEDIT appropriation into a dedicated bridge fund. Another $300,000 annually would be set aside for paving, which Ritzler says would allow the county to do 10 more miles per year. Right now they’re paving 20 miles annually. The remaining money would go toward transportation infrastructure projects like new roads, new bridges, turn lanes and bike paths – all kinds of things that money could go to.