City Planner Jeremy Skinner (gesturing) answered questions about the city map route to attendees during Wednesday night’s public input session for the U.S. 30 freeway project. Photo by Amanda Bridgman
City Planner Jeremy Skinner (gesturing) answered questions about the city map route to attendees during Wednesday night’s public input session for the U.S. 30 freeway project. Photo by Amanda Bridgman
The Lincoln Elementary School gymnasium was standing room only at Wednesday night’s public meeting for the U.S. 30 freeway project.

The second public input session for the project was led by Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer, County Commissioner Cary Groninger, City Planner Jeremy Skinner and County Planner Dan Richard.

The meeting was to show the public using maps the different proposed routes for a future limited-access freeway.

The first route would go around the northeast part of the city and would reconnect at Ind. 15.

The second route would go around the southern part of the city, with the third option being to use the current U.S. 30 route but create very limited access points.

The mayor told the crowd Wednesday he’s pleased with the turnout because public input to the Indiana Department of Transportation is key in getting the project to work best for the community, noting INDOT determines the final plan. Thallemer said without public input, INDOT could come in and say ‘this is what we’re going to do’ for what works best for their dollars and cents.

“This is not a city or county project,”?Thallemer said. “This is an INDOT project.”?

The mayor stressed that the plans are not set in stone and that project construction probably wouldn’t happen for at least 10 years and would continue for years after it began.

Thallemer also wanted to make clear that specific parcels of land, roads or mileposts are currently not part of any of these very broad options.

The room was presented with a PowerPoint presentation to show statistics of traffic and crashes on U.S. 30. Currently, 30,000 cars and 6,000 trucks travel on U.S. 30 daily, with INDOT projecting 38,000 cars and 11,780 trucks by 2035.

Crash data for the area of Fox Farm Road to CR 325 East, provided by Michiana Area Council of Governments, shows from 2011 through July 2019, a total of 1,424 crashes occurred for an average of 162 crashes per year, with 35% of those crashes occurring because of cars following too closely.

Crash data for the Parker Street intersection from 2011 through July 2019 shows 220 total crashes with an average of 26 crashes per year; data for Anchorage Road intersection: 137 total crashes, or about 16 crashes per year; and Old U.S. 30 intersection, 153 total crashes for about 18 crashes per year.

Skinner told the room to think about how they currently use U.S. 30, then think about how they would use U.S. 30 in each of the route options.

He said INDOT doesn’t care about anyone’s property, but they do care about the impact it will have. That impact is taken into consideration during the environmental study that will take place. The environmental study is more than just trees and wetlands, Skinner said.

“You may have a hog farm, you may have a dairy farm, we need to know that so we can tell INDOT,” he said.

The room was presented with the information before being able to take the floor to look at the maps and ask questions.

Groninger reminded people to think about the big picture.

“This is a big decision that’s going to affect this community for generations to come,” he said.

One person asked Skinner if there’s currently a website or place people can submit information or comments or questions for the U.S. 30 coalition members to receive and review.

“I think that’s a great question and a great idea,”?Skinner said. He said he’s sure they can make that possible and that this is just the start of many public meetings to come.

Stan Moore owns a farm on CR 300 South between Country Club Road and Packerton Road and said he’s wondering how this is going to be funded.

“Seems like all they can afford to do is chip and seal on state roads, how can they afford this?,” Moore said. “I think it would adversely affect the existing businesses. People would sail right through and never even stop for Warsaw.”?

He added that the southern route would come through his yard and he has a woods that’s been a classified forest for over 35 years.

Brenda Ganshorn lives on CR 500 South and said she thinks the current route with limited access and an overpass would help solve the issues.

“I may not be here, but I still care,” Ganshorn said, acknowledging the project won’t likely see completion for 20 or 30 years.

Garry Phillips lives in Warsaw and came to the meeting to see what’s going on.

“Ten, twenty years down the road, you’re gonna have more population,” he said. “But, if you live north or south then you think it’s gonna take your property, but really, it’s a lot bigger than that.”?

Opposition for the southern route was voiced by generational farmers. One woman said her family has a generational farm and the route would take almost 20 acres of it.

Kosciusko County Commissioner for the southern district Bob Conley said his section of the county doesn’t want the highway. Conley said so many overpasses would have to be built and many county roads could just come to a dead end.

More public meetings for input will be scheduled, the mayor assured residents.

The U.S. 30 Coalition is a 15-member board with elected officials, key local staff, economic development representatives and industry representatives from Kosciusko, Allen, Whitley, Marshall, Starke, Laporte and Porter counties.

The public can visit warsaw.in.gov/us30 to find more information.