February 3, 2020

Yellowwood State Forest Access Roads

Brown County, Indiana
Indiana Department of Transportation
Service Line:
Transportation Design

Yellowwood State Forest consists of more than 2,000 acres of forest land, located in Brown County, owned by the State of Indiana and managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The area includes Yellowwood Lake, which is a manmade 133-acre lake. There are over 50 miles of hiking trails, over 20 miles of horse trails, 80 designated campsites, and primitive campsites throughout the area.

Yellowwood Road and Yellowwood Lake Road are the two primary travel routes through the state forest property. Jackson Creek and North Fork Salt Creek flow through the area. Improvements were needed due to the poor road conditions and frequent overtopping of the roads during rain events and hydraulically inadequate drainage structures, limiting access in this very rugged area. IDNR and INDOT had made two previous design attempts in the 1980s and early 1990s to improve Yellowwood Road and Yellowwood Lake Road, both of which included significant road realignments. These initial design concepts were met with high resistance by local residents and stakeholders. Due to the criticism, the project kept getting shelved.

Hired by INDOT, Lochmueller took an entirely different approach that would balance the needs for access against environmental impacts and the low volume of traffic. We determined a facility that hugged the terrain, as befitting the scenic location, while remaining durable for years to come and safe to travel during high rain events was needed. If segments of the access road did not exhibit any of the basic project needs, it would simply be patched and overlaid. All stakeholders were happy with this approach.

Lochmueller utilized a common sense, Open Roads, approach to the design.

  • Since the roads in question had very low volumes with no records of recent crashes, eight Level One design exceptions were requested and approved, saving nearly $500,000 for INDOT.
  • The design team requested and INDOT approved modified hydraulic standards that did not force all bridges and structures to be serviceable for a 100-year storm event, presuming upstream flooding did not occur.
  • At the north end of the project, where daily traffic volumes are less than 150, a decision was made to utilize a full depth aggregate pavement. This saved about $400,000 and satisfied a local concern that an end-to-end paved roadway would increase speeds.
  • Additionally, in this low-traffic area, the existing lane widths were retained, saving over $100,000.
  • Due to the rugged nature of the terrain, Level Two design exceptions were requested and approved for omitting guardrail over some of the box culverts.

These measures satisfied the needed improvements, providing a safe yet scenic roadway and taking into account the concerns heard from landowners for many years.

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