Traffic signal gets red light

GREENFIELD — Residents hoping to see a traffic signal installed at State Roads 9 and 234 likely won’t have their wish granted.

Recently, the Hancock County Board of Commissioners asked county highway engineer Gary Pool to work with the Indiana Department of Transportation to see if the intersection’s congestion at rush hour warranted installing a traffic signal.

On Tuesday, Pool told the commissioners that INDOT studied the intersection in March 2014 and didn’t see a significant need for a traffic signal or other traffic control mechanism.

INDOT officials say they’re updating the analysis with current traffic volume and crash history data to see if there’s been a significant increase in either, which might support a change in traffic control. For now, however, no changes will be made to the busy intersection near Eden Elementary School.

The intersection is controlled by a four-way stop with red flashers. Residents say that, during rush hour, traffic traveling north on State Road 9 backs up as far as a mile from the intersection, and they often sit in the stop-and-go congestion for as long as 30 minutes.

Because two state roads meet at the intersection, the county has no authority to make changes. Any changes in traffic control would have to come from INDOT, leaving the county’s hands tied.

Hancock County Commissioner Tom Stevens lives near the intersection and said the congestion is inconvenient for the commuters driving in the area and nearby residents, who struggle to get out of their driveways during rush hour.

He said it’s hard to believe there’s not enough traffic during rush hour to warrant a change.

“It’s obviously a problem. I live right there. During rush hour every day of the week, through the week, that backs up past my house,” he said. “If you’re backing up traffic a mile, there’s obviously a problem.”

According to INDOT figures from 2011 — the most recent data available — an average of 8,000 cars travel on State Road 9 near the intersection each day; about 2,000 travel on State Road 234.

The transportation department regularly receives suggestions, complaints and concerns about traffic on roads it oversees from individuals, government officials, business owners and police, and the department is open to hearing those complaints and suggestions, INDOT spokesman Nathan Riggs said in an email.

When INDOT studied the intersection in early 2014, engineers did not identify crash trends or congestion problems that would improve with a traffic signal, Riggs said.

Though the intersection is busy, it doesn’t see a significant number of accidents for the amount of traffic traveling through, Pool and law enforcement officials say.

While it’s inconvenient for commuters and residents, it’s not necessarily a safety issue, they say.

It’s not unusual for intersections to see increased traffic during peak hours, Riggs added.

“Keep in mind that many areas may experience congestion during peak traffic times, and a traffic signal, which is not the only tool engineers have for improving intersections, may not improve that condition or make the area any safer,” he said.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.