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02-17-04: Largest ever road grant to roll into Mercer County


Mercer County is set to receive its largest federal road grant ever, a result of the hard work of the county engineer’s office, Engineer James Wiechart said.
An estimated $2 million has been secured from the Federal Highway Administration to pay for most of a road-widening project for Celina-Mendon Road.
The project includes widening the road to 24 feet, improving the drainage and widening the shoulders. The entire stretch of Celina-Mendon Road between Celina and Mendon is set for widening.
“This is the largest grant we have ever received and the largest capital improvement project I have ever overseen,” Wiechart said. “We are thankful for this opportunity, this has been a great team effort by all members of our office.”
Bids for the project are set to be opened March 18. Construction should start later in the spring and be completed by the end of 2004,
Wiechart said the road will be closed at times but access will be maintained for local traffic at all times.
In sections where the road right-of-way was less than the required 60 feet, new easements were agreed to by 12 property owners. Also, some trees will need to be removed along the eight-mile stretch, Wiechart said, and those property owners already have been contacted.
The Federal Highway Administration is paying for 80 percent of the $2.5 million project, with the engineer’s office paying the remaining $625,000 on matching funds.
“All these improvements are intended to make the road safer to the traveling public,” Wiechart said.
This road widening project comes while Wiechart’s bridge replacement program begins to wind down. With more than 80 bridges replaced in the last 4 years, the engineer hopes to have the remaining 25 bridges with load restrictions replaced by 2007.
Widening the dangerous sections of Mercer County’s 393 miles of county and township roads will become the engineer’s primary focus, “toward the end of the decade,” Wiechart said.
He said the Celina-Mendon Road project is being completed this year because of the grant opportunity that came up. Last year, grant money helped complete a $1 million road widening on four miles of Mercer Road, which connects to Celina-Mendon Road.
Wiechart said the county has about $2 million annually to spend maintaining and replacing county roads, received from gas tax and license fee payments. Usually, $500,000 to $600,000 is set aside for road resurfacing each year, more when special grants are available.
When Celina-Mendon Road enters the village of Mendon it turns into Main Street. Village officials there have secured several hundred thousand dollars in state grant funds to restructure Main Street.
That $500,000 to $1 million project would tie into the Celina-Mendon Road work. Wiechart said he is meeting with consultants for the village this week to discuss synchronizing the projects.


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