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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Median issue divides city, state, property owner

Friday, September 9, 2011

Watching afternoon traffic along U.S. 231 at the Veterans Memorial Highway intersection Wednesday, Alan Plunkett (center), deputy commissioner of the Crawfordsville District of the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) explains construction options. Listening intently are (from left) City Engineer Garth Hughes, property owner Jerry Spackman of S&B Auto Brokers, Greencastle Public Works Commissioner Brad Phillips and INDOT engineer Scott Burress.
A four-inch-high, four-foot-wide slab of concrete is at the center of an issue potentially dividing not only U.S. 231 but also the City of Greencastle, the Indiana Department of Transportation and a local business owner.

The area in question is immediately north of the U.S. 231 (Bloomington Street) intersection with Veterans Memorial Highway.

INDOT engineers want to put the median there to prevent northbound traffic from turning left onto Broadway and backing traffic into the intersection behind it as sometimes occurs now at peak periods.

However, such placement of a median would also prevent southbound traffic from turning left into S&B Auto Brokers, the used car dealership on the old Greencastle Wash 'n' Fill site on the east side of Bloomington Street.

Before that might happen, S&B owner Jerry Spackman went proactive, contacting INDOT and city officials, setting up a meeting at his office Wednesday afternoon.

Spackman was joined by Crawfordsville District Deputy Commissioner Alan Plunkett and engineers Scott Burress and Travis Kohl, all of INDOT. The city was represented by City Attorney Laurie Robertson, City Engineer Garth Hughes, Public Works Commissioner Brad Phillips, Fire Chief Bill Newgent and Clerk-Treasurer Teresa Glenn. Mayor Sue Murray was out of town and unavailable.

After an hour of discussion inside the S&B office did little more than detail how the three sides -- INDOT, city and Spackman -- remembered or mis-remembered the history of the project, it moved outside to the S&B sales lot.

There City Engineer Hughes was the first to suggest that shortening the length of the median while moving the current S&B entrance 25 or 30 feet north at the northernmost edge of Spackman's property might be a workable compromise.

Nothing, however, was officially decided at the scene Wednesday evening. INDOT engineers and Public Works Commissioner Phillips took measurements from the Broadway side of the intersection with thoughts of narrowing that expanse to better funnel traffic onto Bloomington Street (U.S. 231).

"We've got time," INDOT Crawfordsville spokesman Plunkett assured, gesturing toward Spackman. "He's not going to wake up Friday and find it (the median) out there."

Spackman, however, remains fearful of the creation of the original median plan overall. He believes it will destroy all impulse traffic into his busy corner car lot. Nobody, he reasoned, would see a car they liked and go all the way through the intersection, turn into a business on the south side of the highway, re-navigate the stoplight northbound and then turn into his business.

"Ninety percent of our sales," Spackman said, "comes from people driving by or sitting at this intersection. You put a median out there and this place is done."

Spackman bought the property eight years ago and readily complied with the state when it decided it needed 12-15 feet of his frontage to undertake the construction project currently under way (and scheduled for completion by the end of November).

"I hadn't bitched an inch," he said, "until I heard you were going to put a median out here and (essentially) condemn this property. You're taking my property and any future chances of resale and flushing them down the sewer."

In addition to interfering with his business prospects, Spackman said the median would create a public safety issue.

City Attorney Robertson was quick to agree. The median, city officials, are concerned, would cause city fire truck and police cars along with ambulances from nearby Operation Life to ride with one wheel on the rolled concrete median to get through the traffic or dangerously drive completely on the other side of the road and pray everyone is paying attention to the lights and sirens.

City officials also noted they have been against the median idea for eight years and thought that the January 2009 postponement of the project was due to a pending redesign.

Plunkett, however, said the INDOT project was delayed because of state funding issues.

"I don't see why we need a median in the first place," Spackman said, noting that in all his discussions with the state over selling his frontage for INDOT right-of-way, the median idea never came up.

"I don't see why we need the median," the city attorney agreed. "That has been the position of the city all along. We're consistent."

Neither Spackman nor city officials can understand why INDOT wants a median on the north side of the intersection, but plans no such median to the south where left turns into Martinsville Street and the office buildings north of it can also restrict traffic flow.

"The city really hasn't received any complaints about vehicles stacking up out there (because of left turns in traffic)," Robertson said.

Plunkett reminded city officials that when the state installed a no-left turn sign for Broadway from northbound U.S. 231 (Bloomington Street), the city was supposed to install a companion sign on Broadway for no left turns onto Bloomington Street.

It was also suggested by INDOT that Broadway be made a one-way street, Burress pointed out.

Both ideas were met with opposition by business owners along Broadway at the time. The one-way idea never even made it to proposal stage before the City Council. Meanwhile, the city ordinance listing no-left turn designations does not include Broadway in its listing.

City officials would be receptive to exploring the no-left turn off Broadway onto Bloomington again, City Attorney Robertson suggested, if INDOT would consider forgoing the median idea in return.

"We can think about that," Plunkett said, adding that he wanted to see any paperwork the state previously provided to Spackman before he commits to any alterations to the project.

"Your concerns are not falling on deaf ears," Plunkett said. "We'll look at it."

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Funny, I thought there was a No Left Turn sign on Broadway at the Bloomington St. intersection. Did it disappear?

-- Posted by cll on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 1:47 AM

When did buying a car become an impulse buy? Sounds like a true Used Car Salesman.

-- Posted by NeverChanges on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 7:25 AM

@ NeverChanges: Now that's funny!!! LOL!

-- Posted by whats-my-beef on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 7:49 AM

It's interesting that the city is opposed to this. There USED to be a no left turn sign and it was either removed, lost, or torn down. I use to sit in Numzio's and watch the city police sit there a give tickets for the left turn. Which way does the city really want this? I agree w/neverchanges, car buying is rarely an impulse buy unless you can not afford it to start with.

-- Posted by gunner on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 8:18 AM

There used to be a no left turn sign there but most of the year it was covered by tree limbs,and people turned anyway.

-- Posted by obeone on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 9:37 AM

It is not the decision to buy a car that is being

made when driving but rather 'that's the car

I want to buy'

-- Posted by Shobar on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 10:20 AM

do you really wonder why there are no plans for a divider to the south? Look at the business offices that are located to the south. Still have questions?

-- Posted by Trying hard on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 12:53 PM

lockemup, Really?! I'm sure you would rather pay above and beyond what a vehicle is worth at a large dealership chain, receive terrible customer service, and get pressured into something you don't really want, need or can afford-and who's the crook? Spackman is a business owner who is trying to protect his business-which is what the article is about, unless you would rather see another empty building in Greencastle?

-- Posted by PeopleRHarsh on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 1:09 PM

Wow. We want to argue the merits of a median strip, but no one wants to voice a concern about ambulances going north with traffic backing up to the Pizza King at times during the day. Get the damn job done so we can have the left turn lane back and replace the no left turn sign. Put the median money into repaving the area in front of Mama Nunz. This is by far the worse pavement in town. Maybe if it was closer to DePauw the mayor would see fit to have it fixed.

-- Posted by Vernie1 on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 5:49 PM

Please just hurry up with the construction. Im tired of having to sit through 3 traffic light cycles because people in north and south bound traffic are trying to turn left.

-- Posted by hoosierloser on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 6:48 PM

Good point Vernie1 and Trying Hard. I agree.

-- Posted by dumpsterdiva2 on Sat, Sep 10, 2011, at 8:22 AM

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