Officials discuss Waterworks Hill solution

Friday, November 3, 2017
Meeting Friday to discuss traffic issues on Waterworks Hill are (from left) Greencastle Mayor Bill Dory, communications director Debbie Calder and traffic engineer Tim Watson of INDOT, Sheriff Scott Stockton, INDOT technical services director Scott Chandler, Greencastle Fire Chief John Burgess and District 44 State Rep. Jim Baird.
Courtesy photo

With a Greencastle woman dead and the wrecks continuing to pile up, the time to do something about Waterworks Hill has come.

At least that was the opinion of the Putnam County sheriff and Greencastle mayor when they contacted the Indiana Department of Transportation about their concerns regarding U.S. 231 north of Greencastle.

Sheriff Scott Stockton and Mayor Bill Dory separately reached out to INDOT with their concerns last week, and the result was a Friday-morning meeting between city, county and state officials.

“The goal is to reduce the number of accidents that have occurred on Waterworks Hill,” Stockton said.

“Last week, the mayor and the sheriff reached out to us here at INDOT,” Debbie Calder, INDOT Crawfordsville District communications director, said. “We wanted to follow up them about their concerns.”

Calder, along with INDOT traffic engineer Tim Watson and acting technical services director Scott Chandler, listened to the concerns of Stockton, Dory, Greencastle Fire Chief John Burgess and District 44 State Rep. Jim Baird (R-Greencastle).

“I’m appreciative of how responsive INDOT was,” Dory said. “I contacted them last Friday and I think the sheriff contacted them on Thursday, and they came out a week later. Based on our emails, they were already looking at some options.”

While no official action was taken Friday, the parties came away optimistic that forward progress is being made.

“I think they’re going to try to get a solution implemented fairly quickly,” Dory said. “With winter coming up and the potential for icy roads, it’s only going to get worse.”

The sheriff shared Dory’s confidence.

“I am confident, and Rep. Baird and Mayor Dory are as well, that the state is going to take action and add some signage,” Stockton said.

Calder said it is too soon to determine an exact course of action, but INDOT engineers are working on the possibilities, which she said could include adding signage and lowering the speed limit.

“We had the engineer and we had a safety representative,” Baird said. “They’re going to take a look at their data and see what it says.”

After reviewing his department’s data, Stockton sent a letter to INDOT citing some of the statistics for the area.

Beginning with February 2015, Stockton presented the accident data in the area from County Road 100 North (north end of Waterworks Hill) to County Road 25 South (just north of the mousehole).

The area in question encompasses Waterworks Hill, which requires southbound motorists to negotiate the downhill grade and right hand curve entering a bridge.

It also includes the entrance to the Putnam County Fairgrounds and Edgelea subdivision, both of which southbound motorists encounter while they still have a lot of momentum from the hill.

During the period in question, an accident occurred every 15.9 days, with an injury resulting every 80.8 days.

For his part, the mayor also cited local news stories that pointed out five major accidents in the area over the last two years.

While the Oct. 23 death of 60-year-old Julie Cox has been the only fatal accident in the area, it hasn’t been without other serious incident.

One occurred less than two weeks earlier, when on Oct. 10 a semi lost control descending the hill and rolled onto its side in the wooded area just north of the Big Walnut Creek Bridge.

Another occurred in December 2016, when a semi tractor actually plunged over the east side of the bridge and was left hanging from the mangled trailer just north of the creek.

Remarkably, there were no serious injuries in either of those accidents.

The spate of recent accidents even has some residents thinking back to the Jan. 2, 2004 wreck that killed PCSD Capt. Jim Baugh, wondering if some changes to the road might have prevented that tragedy.

Calder said INDOT plans to keep local officials and media outlets abreast of any proposed changes in the Waterworks Hill area.

Dory is also happy with the ability of the city, county and state to work together.

“I think it’s a good example of how the city and county can work together with state agencies to get issues addressed,” Dory said. “Since I started as mayor, INDOT has been pretty responsive when we’ve had questions.

“They’re concerned about the situation and I think we will see some solutions fairly quickly.”

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    Always want to blame the state. These roads have been here longer than any one alive in Putnam county.


    -- Posted by Ins_agent63 on Sat, Nov 4, 2017, at 4:13 AM
  • Many of these accidents involve people NOT from this area and, thus, unfamiliar with the vagaries of the "hill". Locals many times become collateral damage. How does any of that blame the state?

    -- Posted by gadsden on Sat, Nov 4, 2017, at 9:08 PM
  • Maybe the state ought to straighten 43 and take out the hill with the curve. That way those who drive with their cell phones out won't have to worry about negotiating "water works hill".

    -- Posted by donantonioelsabio on Sun, Nov 5, 2017, at 8:39 AM
  • The simplest solution is to lower the speed limit there and actually enforce it.

    -- Posted by Koios on Sun, Nov 5, 2017, at 9:42 AM
  • If a lower speed limit were posted north of the hill or even a flashing caution light, it might keep the speeding semis from barreling down the hill and then getting into trouble at the first curve.

    -- Posted by foxtrotter on Mon, Nov 6, 2017, at 6:32 AM
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