Getting closer

Crews work on small projects inside the new roadbed that was laid down on S.R. 120 in Howe last week. The project, to be completed in phases, will replace the state road through Howe before winter.

HOWE — Phase two of the program to rebuild S.R. 120 through Howe is nearing completion.

Weather has made the construction project, like farming, difficult this year. Heavy rains and standing water has pushed the work back, delaying the project. The road was shut down from its intersection with S.R. 9 to 5th Street in Howe as the roadbed was removed, new storm sewers installed and new curbing and a base layer of asphalt put back in place

Indiana Department of Transportation spokesperson Nichole Hacha-Thomas said such weather delays aren’t uncommon.

“As with any construction project, schedules presented by the contractors are a guideline, and rarely are they followed to a tee — as many things can and do change when the crews get to the field,” she said. “We did have quite a bit of rain this spring, which has pushed back several projects in the District. The intermediate contract completion date for the bulk of the work in Howe is mid-November, with a final contract completion date in May of 2020 When that information is taken into account, the contractor has plenty of time to get the work completed this construction season.”

The project is being done in several different phases to try and minimize the disruption to the lives of the people who live and work along the state highway.

People associated with several local businesses said the project, while welcome, has disrupted their business.

Anna Combs, a pet groomer at Puppy Love, a business inside Howe’s business district, said the biggest problem so far is that the project sometimes makes it difficult for customers to find their way to the shop.

Combs said the most frustrating part so far is not really knowing what to expect next.

“The state really doesn’t talk to us,” she said. “We really have no idea what’s going on.”

Across the street at Howe’s ice cream shop, new owner Kristy Hochstetler said a steady stream of loyal customers willing to park a little farther away and walk to her shop has kept her business going, but admitted the roadwork has taken away what she would expect to see in drive-by customers.

Hacha-Thomas said as the next phase of the project begins, rebuilding the road through the heart of Howe’s business district, the state will work hard to ensure that work doesn’t overwhelmingly affect those businesses.

“As the contractor gears up for the next phase of work — which should begin soon and will include laying pipe and working on the sidewalk wall, the business owners will most likely see lots of work taking place through their business district. Contractors are aware and plan to maintain access to all businesses during this phase,” she said.

Hacha-Thomas said if anyone in the community has a specific project concern, they are advised to call the state’s customer service team at 1-855-INDOT4U and those concerns will be forwarded to the project team on site.

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