A portion of Witt Road in Lebanon will close April 1, allowing Eli Lilly and Co. to begin constructing a $2.1 billion pharmaceutical complex.

But land along both sides of Witt Road from County Road 375 North to C.R. 450 N. is already being cleared. Boone County Highway Director Nick Parr observed the construction traffic and sounded the alarm this week about potential ramifications.

The construction traffic will use roads and structures that are too narrow and not rated to handle the weight and volume of construction equipment and materials. The equipment is already kicking up copious amount of dust that falls onto neighboring homes. Work to dismantle homes and other buildings has just begun, yet wind has strewn insulation and other construction materials among corn stubble in nearby fields.

The City of Lebanon annexed the Lilly property, including a portion of Witt Road, last year. But the county maintains roads that access the property, and they will also possibly suffer heavy damage, Parr said. The Lilly site is part of the LEAP Lebanon District under development by the Indiana Department of Economic Development.

The IEDC made formal agreements with the city to repair and improve roads that access the site. And the IEDC and county officials have corresponded about county road maintenance and construction. A memorandum of understanding with the county is forthcoming, Parr said.

As significant additional traffic is expected, the IEDC proposes to improve County Roads 150 W., 450 N., 375 N.; a bridge on C.R. 150 S., just south of C.R. 500 N.; and a culvert on C.R. 375 between the CSX Railroad tracks and Ind. 39.

Without the IEDC’s proposed improvements, detour and construction traffic could damage the roads and bridges.

“We have grave concerns about all of this,” Parr said.

The IEDC is attempting to buy rights of way for parcels along roads in order to widen them and/or make improvements. Maintaining county roads in their current condition while adding additional traffic will be costly for the county, but working with the IEDC to complete the necessary improvements could save millions in local tax dollars, Parr said.

“We are frustrated with this and how someone else is coming in and doing this without any input from the county,” Boone County Commissioners President Don Lawson said.

Adding another complication, the southbound entrance ramp to Interstate 65 is closed at Ind. 47.

“We intend to post signs to notify motorists on Ind. 47 of the closure in an effort to prevent them from turning south onto Witt Road,” Parr said after the meeting. “Motorists need to use Ind. 39 and not use C.R. 150 W. (Witt Road) as a shortcut.”

The detour to Ind. 39 will allow motorists to avoid gravel roads with weight-rated structures, a road with a steep railroad crossing incline that could hang trailers up, or a low-clearance railroad bridge, among other challenges. The detour should also reduce dust expected to descend on residences from increased traffic on gravel roads.

The Lilly site boundaries are roughly County Roads 450 N. and 375 N., CSX to the east and Interstate 65 to the west. C.R. 450 N. dead ends at the interstate. C.R. 375 N. dead ends at Witt Road. A small portion of the site is also adjacent to C.R. 300 S. and Witt Road to 375 S.

Lilly is the anchor tenant in the LEAP Lebanon District, which is the largest economic development project in state history. Lilly’s $2.1 billion pharmaceutical complex is the second largest economic investment in Hoosier history. LEAP stands for limitless exploration advanced pace. The district, known informally as a hard-tech corridor, is being set aside by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation for groundbreaking industry.

Trending Video

Recommended for you