If Warsaw City Council on Monday accepts the recommendation of the Traffic Commission, northbound traffic on Union Street will not be able to turn left or go straight at Winona Avenue.

Wednesday, the Traffic Commission unanimously voted to recommend the council make it a right-turn only after several months of discussing it and conversations with Indiana Department of Transportation officials, two of whom attended Wednesday’s meeting.

INDOT?has a role in the issue because part of Winona Avenue in the city is also part of Ind. 25.

The issue will be re-examined after one year if council OKs the change.

The Commission also decided against Warsaw Community Schools’ request for Logan Street at Winona Avenue to be a right-turn only between 2:30 and 3:45 p.m.

Traffic Administrator and Warsaw Police Capt. Kip Shuter began Wednesday’s discussion by pointing out INDOT supported the change to right-turn only. At the June meeting, Street Superintendent Jeff Beeler suggested the alternative of putting school zone crosswalks, flashing lights and signs up at the intersection to provide additional safety at the intersection.

INDOT Traffic Engineer Dana Plattner and Traffic Investigations Engineer Dirk Schmidt have been looking at the intersection and providing the Traffic Commission with data.

Plattner told the Commission Wednesday, “I think I would just mention that those suggestions of the signage improvements, we’re OK with doing that. We haven’t taken any action yet until we had this conversation, but I think we came to the conclusion that with those changes, with those improvements, they will make minimal impact with the crash problem. At least, that’s our opinion.”

From Feb. 6, 2014, to April 17, 2017, there were 15 accidents involving 32 vehicles involving nine injuries at the Union/Winona intersection, according to statistics provided by the Commission. From May 2016 to June 1, 2017, there were seven accidents with five injuries in three of those accidents.

“We appreciate the idea of cheaper, quicker, you know, less-restrictive type of change, but we feel like if our objective is to reduce those crashes that are happening, particularly those T-bone right-angle type, we need to go to that restrictive level, which we know is not ideal, it’s not going to be received well by everyone, but from a safety standpoint, we think it’s right,” Plattner explained.

Schmidt added, “One of the reasons why we are also recommending this is because of how far Union Street extends to the north. It just goes up to Market Street, and it’s our understanding that it really doesn’t have a whole lot of traffic going to the west.” He said drivers cross Winona Avenue at Union to get to Market Street to continue to go east toward downtown. “So if their destination ultimately lies to the east, then having them turn right at Winona versus turning right at Market is not a significant difference.”

Plattner said the crashes have occurred at all hours of the day every day of the week so the right-turn only would be 24/7 and not limited to a particular time of day or days of the week.

Warsaw City Planner Jeremy Skinner asked given the number of accidents at the Union Street intersection, “would INDOT consider looking at a long-term solution in the future outside of the right-turn only?”

When Plattner asked what he meant by long-term solution, Skinner suggested a roundabout.

Plattner said he hadn’t thought about a roundabout at Union, but Skinner said a roundabout at Logan and Winona would work really well. “But Union, just from an accident standpoint, obviously, the reduction and severity of accidents, and probably the amount of accidents, would be pretty significant if the roundabout was there,” Skinner said.

Skinner said he realized that wasn’t going to happen soon, but even if the city did the right-turn only now, would INDOT look at doing something to that intersection to make it safer. Plattner said he liked doing a step 1, step 2 concept for the intersection to see if a right-turn only works first. If it works, he said INDOT probably wouldn’t want to help finance the building a roundabout there.

Mayor Joe Thallemer asked what physical changes would INDOT make to the intersection if it went to a right-turn only. Shuter asked if INDOT would create an “island” at the right turn to encourage vehicles to turn right. Plattner said they didn’t really look at that, though they could paint one to direct people to the right. He said INDOT was mostly looking at signage and paint markings.

Plattner said the right-turn only along with signage and marking was the “right” first step. They could watch the intersection for a year, see if the number of crashes decreases, and then go from there to see if there are any long-term improvements.

Shuter asked if INDOT did an analysis to see if a light signal was warranted at the intersection. Schmidt said they did but the intersection didn’t warrant a signal especially outside of school hours. Sixty-five percent of the traffic was turning right anyway.

Plattner said INDOT was interested in some formal concurrence from the city before it acted, though it had a legal right to post a right-turn only at its intersection, though “we certainly want to make sure we’re all in agreement with what we’re doing.”

About a month ago, Shuter said, he and Skinner met with Warsaw Community Schools officials to see if they could force more of their traffic – parents, buses, student drivers – to use Logan Street the way it was designed for and relieve some of the traffic at Union Street. But he said he didn’t think they’d ever get rid of the Union Street traffic because Edgewood Middle School and Washington STEM Academy are on that road.

Commission member Steve Foster made a motion for the change with a stipulation of the 12-month review. His motion was approved and the recommendation will go before the city council Monday.

Since INDOT has jurisdiction over the intersection, the city council wouldn’t need to approve an ordinance but just provide INDOT with a concurrence.

Since WCS begins Aug. 16, Plattner said the pavement markings and signs for the intersection may not be ready by the first day of school.

Then Shuter brought up WCS’s request for a “time restriction for right-turn only at Logan and Winona.” The time restriction would be for right after school from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. Schmidt said 76 percent of the traffic at Logan and Winona turns right. But Shuter said the remaining 24 percent that wants to turn left backs traffic up on Logan. Plattner and Schmidt were against the restricted right-turn only at Logan because Logan is safer left turn and they didn’t want to push more traffic onto Union. From a safety standpoint, Plattner said he was against change at Logan.

There was then discussion about adding a left-turn lane on Logan, which Skinner said he would look at but was not optimistic about it from a safety standpoint. If the city wanted to put a left-turn on Logan Street to Winona Avenue, Plattner said he thought INDOT would be supportive of that action. Schmidt said that intersection was usually cleared out in 15-20 minutes when he looked at it during the last school year.