2018-06-13 / Front Page

Citizens speak out against J-Turn

INDOT plans bid letting in July
By Debbie Lowe
Staff writer

State Senator Brian Buchanan State Senator Brian Buchanan An Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) proposal to overhaul the intersection of CR 800W., at the Hoosier Heartland Highway (HHH), is intended to reduce the number of deaths from crashes. The proposition has met with resistance from many in the community who use the intersection many times on a daily basis. Sheriff Tobe Leazenby is one of those who does not support INDOT’s plan.

Leazenby held a public meeting June 7 to allow anyone in the community to comment on the matter. Nearly 90 residents attended the Thursday night meeting in the Little Theatre at Delphi Community High School. Attendees included State Senator Brian Buchanan and Representative Don Lehe. Notably missing was an INDOT representative.

Leazenby stated at the beginning of the meeting more than 90 percent of the crashes at the intersection, since November 2013 have been attributed to human error.

Mike Harbeck Mike Harbeck “We can’t fix human error,” Leazenby commented.

The Sheriff reported, according to crash statistics, there have been three fatalities since the HHH opened and 25 injuries. He said he has asked INDOT to consider alternatives to the proposed JTurn, which reportedly is estimated to cost roughly $800,000, because not only will there be a lengthy construction period but drivers who want to go straight on CR 800W. will turn right, make a UTurn and turn left to travel across two lanes of high-speed traffic on each side of the highway.

Leazenby suggests INDOT consider added pavement markings, rumble strips in the median and perimeter flashing lights in the median.

Local resident Mike Harbeck, who is opposed to INDOT’s plan, said it is a terrible idea and the state would be “setting” drivers “up for more crashes” at the intersection. Another local resident, Jonella Beale said she has kept statistics by just watching the traffic from her deck which has a view of the intersection. She said one out of five drivers do not stop when they are traveling from Delphi to Lafayette.

Community member Ken Roswarski said he is strongly opposed to the J-Turn. He said it will be a “whole lot harder” to negotiate in the winter.

Local farmer Dean Burton said his son, Brad Burton, and Mike Beale, who farm a significant amount of ground near the intersection, cross the HHH 50 to 60 times a day sometimes and have never had a crash.

“The J-Turn (plan) is just terrible,” Burton said.

Delphi City Council member Dale Seward asked Leazenby if a “Stop” sign in the median would help.

“I approached INDOT with the same question and was told it has not worked,” Leazenby said. “It seems it’s a J-Turn or nothing.”

INDOT stated at a previous meeting, not advertised to the public, there are several J-Turns in Michigan and they are working well. It was noted at the recent meeting the Michigan intersections with J-Turns are in speed controlled zones, such as 30 to 40 miles per hour, not on a thoroughfare where drivers routinely travel 60, 70 and 80 mph.

“Is this a done deal?” Terry Nipple of the Rockfield area asked.

The Sheriff said the situation “is in the final hour” and Lehe said “probably.”

“That’s bulls**t,” Nipple responded to Lehe. “Why won’t you listen to the public?”

Lehe said he did not attend the meeting to defend INDOT. He said INDOT personnel believe the J-Turn is safer than any other alternative.

“And I am not in the position to argue,” Lehe stated.

Delphi Community School Corporation Superintendent Greg Briles reported the transportation department will not need to re-route school busses for construction or determine if a bus can navigate a J-Turn because busses do not use the HHH due to safety issues.

Mike Beale said the state should realign the intersection rather than construct a J-Turn.

“A little asphalt is cheaper than an $800,000 J-Turn,” he said.

Seward, who was the only representative from the City of Delphi at the meeting, said the J-Turn would be bad for farmers and bad for the community. He said every intersection has crashes. Seward said growth can happen for Delphi near the area and indicated the solution to the situation at the intersection must be done correctly.

“As far as I’m concerned, we aren’t done yet,” Leazenby said.

The Sheriff said he will compose a letter to Governor Eric Holcomb and to INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness and ask the state “come back to the table” to discuss the situation.

Leazenby shared with the Comet late last week a communication he received from community member, Amanda Rardon RN, Trauma Program Manager for IU Arnett Health, which was written in July 2014 about the intersection. Rardon said she wrote about the number of crash victims at the intersection Indiana University Hospital Trauma Unit was treating at that time. Following is a section of the letter.

“This letter is coming to you on behalf of the Indiana University Health Arnett Hospital Trauma Committee. We would like to communicate a concern with the safety of the intersection of the Hoosier Heartland Highway and County Road 800 W in Carroll County,” Rardon wrote….In order to increase visibility and safety of this intersection, Indiana University Health Arnett Trauma Center would like to advocate for the addition of rumble strips and flashers at this intersection.”

INDOT responded in August, 2014.

“Our traffic department conducted an onsite comprehensive engineering traffic study at the intersection of SR25 and CR 800W. in Carroll County. In reviewing the crash reports, our traffic department determined that motorists on CR 800W. are not stopping or yielding to traffic when pulling out onto SR25. As a result of this investigation, INDOT will be installing oversized stop signs on both approaches of CR 800W. along with the installation of pavement markings and delineators in the median of the intersection. The pavement markings and delineators will help guide motorists through the median and will help increase their sight distance. In addition, INDOT will be proposing this intersection for a federally funded safety project. The proposed project would entail reconfiguring the alignment of this intersection.”

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