‘It’s just a pain’: Montgomery County construction site abandoned as contractors spread thin

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MONTGOMERY COUNT, Ind. — Summertime means it’s construction season here in central Indiana as it seems hard to drive anywhere without taking a detour or spotting an orange barrel along your way.

But typically, you’d see construction workers with them.

Some construction sites, like one in Montgomery County on County Road 100 West over the Black Creek, are workerless, but it’s not due to a shortage of staff, rather a surplus in projects.

“They completed a portion of it, and then they left to finish a project somewhere else,” said Tom Klein, Montgomery County administrator. “It’s the perception that is frustrating, and I understand that.”

A bevy of projects across the state with varying completion deadlines has left contract companies like Milestone to scramble their workers to finish them all on time. 

“They’re juggling their projects and trying to get all of them done within the timelines they were given for the projects they were rewarded,” Klein said. “They are gone, yes, but they are still meeting our timeline. They’re not behind schedule, and we would be more concerned if this was October and they said, ‘We’re leaving, and we can’t finish the project.’ That would be a different story.”

Bridge #79 on 100 West, north of I-75, is closed for replacement. The project, county leaders say, is the first major bridge work to be done in Montgomery County in several years. It’ll also make the stretch of road safer when it is complete sometime in October. 

“We had a dangerous ‘S’ curve over a bridge, and the bridge was old, so we have done both things. We’ve eliminated the ‘S’ curve and created a new bridge so the road will be safer,” Klein said. “These are the most dangerous parts of a road, and this will serve as a good north/south bypass essentially for people in our county, so we are excited for it.”

To save money, the county extended their deadline to 150 days to give contract construction crews more time to complete the job. 

“We are trying to do this project at lowest cost to our residents, so we did give the contractor a lot of time to do the project, and the risk of doing that is that this may happen,” Klein said. “Let’s say we didn’t do that and we said, Well, we’re gonna require them to finish it in 60 days.’

“We would’ve paid a premium for that. So we’re trying to have a balance between being fiscally prudent with our tax dollars, with getting projects done in a reasonable time, and that’s a tough balance. All told, it’s a $1.5 million project, and we had the groundbreaking on April 16th.”

But ever since then, for the most part, nearby homeowners like Greg Allison say work has stalled. 

“I saw them pour the concrete and everything. I thought they were just letting it cure, but it went almost four weeks and nothing,” Allison said. “Rain kinda messes ’em up a little bit working outside. I understand that, but when it was, when we had good weather, there was no one around.”

The workers may have left, but the detour, which Allison argues adds more than five minutes to his daily drive, has not.

“We gotta go north to go south. I mean it’s, it’s just a pain in the butt,” Allison said. “I’ve watched other bridges go in it didn’t take near as long. At the rate they’re going, I don’t believe it’ll be done in time.”

Despite the doubt, Klein believes it will be ready in October as previously agreed to.

“Milestone has worked with us really well. They’ve been up front about what’s going on, and they’ve done a really good job on the project. I don’t have any worries about them getting the project done, and I understand what they’re doing, and they’re still following the timeline, so they’re not doing anything wrong,” Klein said. “We don’t have any indication that they’re not going to complete the project in the time that we set for them. We are meeting our timeline, it’s just longer than what people may like.”

County leaders are unsure which project or projects construction crews are working on ahead of Bridge #79.

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