Percy Julian Drive has had more names than road repair efforts in recent years.
Once known as First Street and/or Zinc Mill Road, the north-south roadway between Indianapolis Road and Veterans Memorial Highway on Greencastle's southeast side even had a brief run as Tiger Cub Trail in the 1990s. In recent years it has been more formalized as Percy Julian Drive.
Regardless of the name, however, the street has always been narrow, short on curbing and only partially serviced by sidewalks.
All that will change under a local construction project to be funded with Redevelopment Commission dollars captured through the TIF (tax-increment financing) district from the industrial area surrounding the Greencastle/Putnam County Airport.
City Engineer Garth Hughes briefed the Greencastle Redevelopment Commission on the project at its March meeting last week, and Monday afternoon (today), city officials will meet with property owners in the area at 4:30 p.m. at Greencastle Middle School.
The project, which will widen Percy Julian Drive to 36 feet with curb and gutter along both sides of the pavement, is expected to go out for bids by the beginning of May. Work is expected to commence June 1, just as soon as the school year ends.
Percy Julian Drive, of course, is the main north-south route for Greencastle High School and Middle School traffic, as well as traffic generated by events at McAnally Center.
"Our goal," Hughes told the commission, "is to be gone by Aug. 17, the date school starts up again."
Along the west side of the road, the sidewalk currently runs from Indianapolis Road to the driveway that runs between McAnally and the main high school parking lot. Along the east side, the sidewalk runs only along the CVS property, from Indianapolis Road to Avenue B.
The proposed project calls for the sidewalk on the west side of Percy Julian Drive to be extended south to Veterans Highway. A crosswalk across Veterans Highway and another east and west across Zinc Mill Road south of the highway would then connect to the pathway that extends into the Ivy Tech property.
Whenever a sidewalk leads to a street crossing in the school area, a standard "zebra-lined" crosswalk should be established, Redevelopment Commission member Gary Lemon stressed.
Lemon also said the driving public needs more education on what the presence of such a crosswalk means.
"Right now, if you set foot into the 'zebra' on South Jackson Street to go over to the (DePauw University) football field, nobody stops," Lemon said, indicating he has even seen police cars ignore pedestrians entering the crosswalk.
"In London, if you put your foot into a crosswalk, everybody stops," Lemon added. "If you put your foot into a crosswalk in Colorado, everybody stops."
Creating the sidewalk along the west side of Percy Julian Drive will require some creative efforts in order to retain the street trees in front of McAnally. To accommodate a sidewalk in front of GMS, the school parking lot will have to be re-striped and pushed back to the west, Hughes said, indicating he has been working with school officials on a new parking lot configuration.
A sidewalk along the east side of Percy Julian Drive is possible from Avenue B to Avenue D, city officials said, if arrangements can be worked out with adjoining property owners.
City Engineer Hughes also noted that the project is to be bid with an alternate of using concrete instead of asphalt to rebuild the street.
While concrete is generally more expensive than asphalt for such projects, Hughes reminded the commission that the street is being designed to accommodate the wear and tear of 125 school buses per day. Concrete will last longer, he said, possibly "at least twice as long" as asphalt.
The city engineer also noted that local "concrete people think they can be competitive" in the bid process and have an incentive to work with the city because of the presence of both local concrete suppliers and contractors who can pour concrete.