By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — By a show of hands and cheers, a majority of the 200 people who attended the third public meeting on changing US 30’s layout showed support for an on-route proposal.
This proposal was presented by representatives for the City of Warsaw and Kosciusko County at the Warsaw Community High School Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, Nov. 16. Panelists at the meeting included Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer, Warsaw Community Economic and Development Director Jeremy Skinner, County Commissioner Cary Groninger, Kosciusko Area Plan Assistant Director Matt Sandy, Warsaw City Planner Justin Taylor, and Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG) Executive Director James Turnwald.
Currently, the US 30 revamp proposal includes changing specific intersections within city limits either to interchanges or grade separations. Interchanges would be created at the Fox Farm Road, Center Street and CR 250E intersections. Grade separations are being proposed at the Silveus Crossing, Anchorage Road, Parker Street, and Springhill Road intersections.
Outside of city limits, county officials are proposing interchanges at the SR 19, CR 800W, CR 500W and SR 13 intersections on US 30. Grade separation is a method of aligning a junction of two more surface transports at different heights so traffic flow is uninterrupted at crossings.
At grade separations, drivers would not be interacting with US 30 and would be going over or under the roadway. Interchanges would allow for drivers to get on and off US 30 while also giving the option to still go over and under the roadway.
One new interchange would also be created in the North Pointe and Mariners Drive area.
With the Parker Street intersection, Skinner said a bulk of the traffic in that area is not interacting with US 30, as a majority of people are just trying to get across the roadway versus onto it.
One citizen asked why the Parker Street intersection couldn’t be an interchange instead of a grade separation.
“We met with a lot of businesses along there,” said Skinner. “Originally we had it as an interchange and their preference was an overpass.”
“They were most concerned with safety of local residents getting across 30 to get to their stores,” said Thallemer.
Representatives stressed that the proposals are merely drafts and that the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has final say in what happens. However, they urged the importance of public input and how public meetings impact the decision INDOT makes.
“The input that we get is really important to try and create an opinion or a public thought of how we want US 30 to look in the next 10 to 15 years,” said Thallemer. “There’s been a significant increase in traffic. We’ve seen significant accident rate increases. The information we got locally in February was that we were having an accident on US 30 within the city limits every 2 1/2 days. Our role is to try and understand what our community wants, and to present some options.”
Discussions on US 30 changes have been ongoing since early 2018, when the first public meeting was held.
In a second public meeting that took place in September 2019, northern and southern options for re-routing US 30 were presented. The proposed southern route would create a significant bypass. At that meeting, many community members voiced opposition against the southern route, including farmers who were concerned about the possibility of losing farmland.
Since then, a public meeting has not taken place due to COVID-19 restrictions. Prior to the third meeting, flyers were handed out to those in attendance reading “No Bypass.” During Q&A sessions following presentations from city and county officials, community members asked questions or made suggestions for ideas to look into. None of the attendees who spoke at the meeting voiced opposition against the on-route proposal.
Seven counties in the US 30 corridor are involved in this plan. This includes Allen, Whitley, Kosciusko, Marshall, LaPorte, Starke and Porter counties. Design and engineering by INDOT will not begin until project funding is identified and a planning and environmental linkage (PEL) study is completed. A PEL study would look at transportation, environmental, community and economic factors.
“This is a long process, and it will take some time,” said Turnwald on the PEL study. “PEL studies that INDOT has done last 18 months on average. We need you to stay engaged, now, and through that 18 months. They will be looking at a whole series of options. Doing nothing is not a solution.”
Recently, city and county officials met with public stakeholders in the US 30 project for their thoughts regarding on-route changes. These groups include elected officials from Warsaw, Etna Green, Pierceton and Kosciusko County; Warsaw Police Department; Winona Lake Town Manager Craig Allebach; Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office; Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory; Lutheran EMS; Warsaw Community Schools’ transportation department; county firemen; hospitals; orthopedic companies; hotels; and retail outlets along US 30.
Panelists and community members also voiced objections to J-turns being established in any capacity on US 30. J-turns are alternatives to traditional roadway intersections on a four-lane highway. With J-turn intersections, motorists would turn right in the same direction of traffic, merge into the left lane and then make a u-turn in the direction they want to travel.
“INDOT had slated a J-turn for the SR 19 intersection, as well as two in Marshall County,” said Groninger. “Part of a directive from the governor (Eric Holcomb), he put a stay on any of the J-turns happening until we had a true plan on how this road was going to look in the future. In INDOT’s defense, they were taking the most dangerous intersections along the corridor where the most fatalities were happening and SR 19 was one of them. But to do a J-turn at SR 19 … I can’t imagine being an Amishman trying to use that. It would be devastating to that community.”
Panelists encouraged the public to attend any meetings that INDOT hosts about the US 30 project. The City of Warsaw will post about upcoming meetings to it social media pages and share information with local media outlets.
The PowerPoint presentation from the Nov. 16 meeting can be viewed here.