Boone County Commissioners allow a quarter mile more of work on Witt Road for safety

Aug. 25—Trucks from five concrete plants will work 24 hours to pour the first building foundation for the Eli Lilly and Co. pharmaceutical complex on Lebanon's north side.

The gene therapy building's foundation will require 590 truckloads, 5,600 cubic yards, of concrete poured continuously, Ken Weerts, Lilly director of operations and engineering, told Boone County Commissioners on Monday.

Trucks from Lebanon, Frankfort, Crawfordsville, Whitestown and Westfield plants will drive to Lebanon beginning after normal work hours on Oct. 21, weather permitting, and go until the same time the next night. That means about 42 trucks per hour will travel through the intersection at County Road 300 North and Witt Road during the peak of the pour, about the 14-16-hour mark.

Boone County Auditor Debbie Crum, who lives near the intersection, asked how traffic would be controlled for safety of local residents and if police would be called to keep watch.

Jim Love, who lives on U.S. 52 near C.R. 300 N., asked how a combine would be able to cross C.R. 300 at that time and reminded Weerts that farmers will be moving grain during October, a crucial period for harvest.

"The folks who live there still have to get in and out," Commissioner Jeff Wolfe said after asking for warning signs and traffic lights.

Weerts said Lilly will ask for police to position at the intersection if necessary. The Indiana Department of Transportation is considering interim traffic control lights at that intersection and Ind. 47 and Witt Road during the Lilly project. But no timeline has been given.

Commissioners on Monday approved a permit for Pure Development to widen and improve a section of Witt Road from Ind. 47 to a quarter mile south to allow turn lanes from Witt onto Ind. 47. INDOT will build a turn lane from Ind. 47 onto Witt Road.

Jeff Wolfe and Tim Buyer voted for the permit. Commissioners President Don Lawson voted against it, saying he has grave concerns about safety on Ind. 47 with a stoplight so near the CSX Railroad crossing to the east.

The turn lanes are a "critical piece," in the overall safety of the operations, Michael Watts, Pure Development senior development manager, said.

Pure is improving Witt Road and others surrounding the Lilly site at the expense of the Indiana Department of Economic Development to facilitate Lilly construction. Lilly is the anchor tenant for the LEAP Lebanon Innovation District under the development of the IEDC.

Commissioners have refused to allow a permit to improve Witt Road from a quarter mile south of Ind. 47 to C.R. 500 N. and it will, as things currently stand, remain unimproved.

The state lacks the right of way to two properties in that stretch of road. Jack and Linda Fahrenbach and Ryan Burnell and Danielle Morrison have refused to sell their rights of way but submitted their own proposals to the state late last week, attorney Michael Andreoli told commissioners.

Andreoli said the state had "opened the spigot" for other property it wanted in the district and needed to do so for right of way to the two remaining properties.

Witt Road from Ind. 47 to the Lilly site was to be made thicker, wider, and more robust to handle construction traffic. And the pavement from a quarter mile south of Ind. 47 to County Road 500 is expected to crumble under the traffic at county expense if it is not improved.

Boone County Highway Department Director Nick Parr asked commissioners if they could permit the state to leave Witt Road from a quarter mile south of Ind. 47 to C.R. 500 N. narrower but still improve the pavement to save county taxpayer expense.

Scott Alexander, attorney for the IEDC, said the state would not require right of way to merely resurface the road. Alexander also said there is no "spigot," and the IEDC must work within state law to require land but did not go into detail.

Alexander said the IEDC has been working with area landowners, Lilly, Pure Development, and Parr to address challenges and that plans for a safe bus turnaround are now in place.

Morrison said Monday the IEDC had made no improvements with all their meetings. "They've not solved anything, not even a little bit," she said.

Taxpayer Ron Coy said the state has paid great prices per acre for the district and "used our own tax money against us to get what they want ... They have bullied their way through."