Survey says: State Road 240 traffic issues only short-time concern

Thursday, October 25, 2018
With Crown Equipment now operating facilities on both sides of State Road 240 on the East Side of Greencastle, the city recently commissioned a study of traffic in the area by Civil Engineering Consultants. Crown officials have expressed concern over how to safely get employees across the highway in the area of the State Road 240 intersection with Fillmore Road.
Banner Graphic/ERIC BERNSEE

Traffic along the State Road 240 industrial corridor is a only big problem for a short time.

That’s the preliminary determination of a study of the East Side Greencastle corridor being conducted by Civil Engineering Consultants, the Greencastle Redevelopment Commission learned Wednesday evening.

The first half of the study is complete, engineer Jeff Mahan reported, noting that initial work has focused on existing conditions in the area between the stoplight near Walmart Distribution on the west and Edgewood Lake Road on the east.

The second phase of the study will concentrate on what effect future project development in the area might have on traffic.

Mayor Bill Dory asked Mahan to highlight what the study thus far has revealed for Redevelopment Commission members Erika Gilmore, Drew Brattain, Gwen Morris, Gary Lemon and Lottie Barcus.

“Honestly, the highlight that jumped out the most,” he said, “is that it seems like issues out there are very periodic and not long lasting.”

Mahan characterized it as “the worst 15 minutes of the day” when the factories -- Crown Equipment, IAC, Chiyoda USA and Ascena let out.

For example, no real problem exists at Fillmore Road’s intersection with 240, he suggested, other than “when IAC lets out and traffic backs up for about 10 minutes.”

“Twenty-three hours of the day 240 functions wonderfully or at least adequately,” the engineer said, noting that traffic in the corridor is “very, very much driven by the industries.”

Mahan was asked if a stoplight would be helpful.

“For those trying to turn left onto 240, it would assist with that,” he assured, adding that conversely it would, in turn, delay traffic along 240.

Another issue with the possibility of adding a stoplight at Fillmore Road or Capital Drive is that the state roadway is controlled by the Indiana Department of Transportation and installation of any traffic signal would be INDOT’s decision.

“I don’t think any of those intersections would have the warrants INDOT would require for a traffic signal,” the engineer said.

Overall, State Road 240 “does not function poorly at all,” Mahan said, and in fact, “functions pretty well for a semi-urban highway,” he added.

“From a functionality standpoint, it doesn’t function horribly, except for 15-minute periods,” Mahan said.

“Basically we’ve been looking at traffic and capacity thus far,” the engineer explained, noting that the corridor being a 55-mph zone impacts the severity of accidents within it.

Mahan said he isn’t sure what the perfect solution might be, partly because “we don’t know what all the problems are yet.”

He said realigning intersections (like Fillmore Road and Edgewood Lake Road) is far too difficult to do in post-development cases, while adding lanes to the highway might help right turns onto 240 but could possibly be worse for left turns.

“We haven’t run all those simulations yet,” Mahan said.

The solution could be as simple as city officials talking with East Side industry leaders and asking them to stagger their employee dismissal times. Those times were once staggered by 15 minutes, it was noted, but are now separated by only five minutes.

City Councilman and commission member Gary Lemon said there might be cheaper solutions than adding stoplights or widening the roadway.

“I’m Jerry Maguire,” Lemon said in reference to the show-me-the-money movie character. “You’ve got to show me the data.”

Lemon said he’d “rather see us go out and talk to them,” meaning factory executives, to see if the old 15-minute staggering dismissal could be restored.

Pondering potential impact on the area in the future, Mahan said studies like this usually look at 20 years out.

“We don’t know what Greencastle is going to look like in 20 years,” Lemon reasoned in response, suggesting that although multi-acre undeveloped areas exist in the industrial corridor, that doesn’t mean a large factory is going to locate there.

“The problem is we don’t have the people to work,” the DePauw University economics professor said. “If I want to come in here and hire 1,000 people, that’s probably not going to happen.”

Mayor Dory agreed that manpower is the issue for further industrial development, especially with the county’s current 3.5 percent unemployment rate.

“In the short run,” he said, “we see these folks growing at a minor pace.”

Another thing that could impact the area, the mayor said, is how housing develops in western Hendricks County. “We could see additional commuters coming in on 240,” he said.

The study will be able to help the city document the issues in the area in question, the mayor said, providing a baseline for the future in potentially working with INDOT on any safety concern.

The issue emerged with Crown Equipment Co. now operating plants on both sides of State Road 240 at Fillmore Road, expanding from its large building on the south side of the highway into the old TechnoTrim plant (later used by Dixie Chopper for inventory overflow) on the north side of the road. Getting employees safely across the busy highway at or near that intersection is the objective.

Mayor Dory said the city, in working with Crown and INDOT on a possible crosswalk idea, has found the state to be reluctant to pursue any change without supportive data from a traffic study.

The mayor said the study could also help provide data for other potential projects, such as the prospect of extending Calbert Way east to meet Fillmore Road, thus providing another east-west route through that heavily traveled area.

Dory asked Mahan to make a return engagement before the commission once the study is complete to offer possible recommendations.

The next regular session of the Greencastle Redevelopment Commission is set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28 at City Hall.

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