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Residents speak against U.S. 24 project

LET’S TALK: Business owner Greg Moore, right, is the first of several people to speak at the pubic hearing Wednesday night at Northfield Jr./Sr. High School.

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@wabashplaindealer.com

LAGRO — More than 60 people gathered in the cafeteria of Northfield Jr./Sr. High School Wednesday night to hear a proposal to close the median at U.S. Highway 24 and County Road 300 East.

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) held the public hearing to provide a presentation of the proposed plan, explain alternatives that were explored and answer questions raised by residents and business owners.

Rather than crossing four lanes of U.S. 24 from Lagro Road, drivers will have to make a right and then perform a U-turn to go the opposite direction. This intersection model is commonly known as a Michigan left turn. INDOT Media relations Director Nichole Thompson said this would be the fourth Michigan left turn in Indiana, if the proposal comes to fruition.

The road work would begin in spring 2020 and last anywhere from three to six months. National data shows this style of intersection reduces the risk of accidents by 60 percent and reduces fatalities by 80 percent, Thompson said.

The road would not suffer closures during the work on the median, but business owners were still concerned about traffic accessing their stores.

The proposal came after INDOT noticed a theme of T-bone accidents at the intersection, and noted as many as 15 have taken place at that location, including one fatality in 2009 and three others with serious injury.

First to speak up was Greg Moore, owner of GA Moore Construction, a log home construction business. He addressed the concern that the project would restrict traffic in the area.

“The business that I have there is a log home, and it’s a model home. What happens with me not getting any traffic for a year while this is done?” he asked. “I can see where all you’re really doing is taking the point of accidents and moving it down the road a quarter mile.”

His statement was met with applause and followed by other residents raising concerns over possible closures due to construction as well as suggestions for other alternatives.

While INDOT explored their alternatives, such as a stop signal, a bridge, a roundabout or a full highway interchange, residents offered their own solutions.

One speaker asked if they would consider leveling the portion of highway to increase visibility, something other residents got on board with after the meeting.

Emily Overlander said she was also concerned for her family’s business that services semi trucks, and said she was in favor of the possibility of a traffic signal with rumble strips to warn drivers and keep them alert. Another speaker said they were concerned with the clearance between medians and whether it would be enough for semis and farm equipment to turnaround without obstructing traffic flow.

The comments shared a common thread of anxiety over the impact of construction to Lagro and the change subsequently causing more accidents than before the project.

The project proposal can be accessed at INDOT’s website or at the Wabash Carnegie Public Library.