Last month, approximately 800 community members gathered at the Lincoln School gymnasium for a public input session regarding proposed safety solution options for U.S. 30. The long-term solution is a limited access freeway. The purpose of the meeting was to present three different routes for a proposed freeway across our county.

To start the meeting, we explained that once the public input is gathered and once the preliminary engineering and cost estimates are completed, the final solution will rest with INDOT. That process, before the first shovel is turned, could take five to 10 years. It is not going to happen in the next few years.

The City of Warsaw and Kosciusko County have a responsibility to present options and gather public input. Watch the city and county websites and local media in the near future for a link to a site that will have all of the presentations, maps, data, studies and other information used for our meetings. Once activated, that site will be updated as new information becomes available.

Recently updated crash statistics were presented at the meeting. They are telling us what we thought we knew. The problem is only getting worse.

As the meeting progressed, maps with broad lines representing conceptual routes were displayed. The routes presented were in draft form and only suggested a general direction of north, south or along the existing route. They simply provided a starting point for the discussion. Intersection details have not been proposed.  

Overlays of different intersection improvements (e.g. diamond or cloverleaf interchanges, overpass, etc.) were provided to show how they could impact surrounding property at various intersections along the routes.

Finally, those in attendance had the opportunity to voice their thoughts. As expected, a significant number of attendees were very concerned about the impact of a bypass on their property. Those concerns are a very important finding as the advantages and disadvantages of each option are determined.

Both Commissioner Cary Groninger and myself felt the thoughts expressed were very important.

In the meantime, short-term intersection safety improvements are being implemented in Warsaw and along U.S. 30 as INDOT is dealing with the increased traffic and truck volumes.

You may have noticed that at the intersection of U.S. 30 and Anchorage Road, INDOT has added an extra lane to Anchorage Road and similar work will be completed at the Parker Street intersection in a couple of weeks. The widening is designed to improve the flow of traffic across U.S. 30 without increasing red light time for U.S. 30 traffic. The city previously rejected INDOT’s proposal to construct modified J-turns at Parker and Anchorage Roads. We felt they would be far to disruptive to the volumes of crossing traffic at those intersections.

A modified J-turn has been proposed by INDOT at U.S. 30 and State Road 19. That improvement is designed to eliminate the stop light on U.S. 30. INDOT engineered the improvement to eliminate rear-end crashes that occur when traffic is stopped. J-turns are also being proposed in Whitley and Marshall counties along U.S. 30.

What is far more important is the long-term solution. Limiting traffic at all conflict points on the highway will drastically reduce crashes. Limiting access with new intersections, overpasses and closing access cuts is the goal of a freeway solution.

The short-term solutions just described are band-aids to a much greater problem.

Creating a long-term vision for a safer U.S. 30 is the goal. Last month’s meeting was a great example of why such public input sessions are so critical. Not only were there concerns voiced, but there were many solutions offered. One thing I didn’t hear was that we should stand back and do nothing.