INDOT to discuss J-turn at Eastern Hancock board meeting

INDOT says J-turns reduce crashes by limiting left turns onto major highways. Provided illustration

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The Eastern Hancock School Board has asked the state to present its proposal to reconfigure a main intersection in the eastern part of the county at the board meeting next week.

The Indiana Department of Transportation told the Hancock County Board of Commissioners in August that it plans to redesign the intersection at U.S. 40 and County Road 600E as a J-turn, also called a “Michigan left.” The design, similar to that at 96th Street and Allisonville Road in Fishers, reduces vehicle crashes, engineers say, but it adds a level of inconvenience for drivers.

The commissioners oppose the plan, which they communicated to INDOT in September. Despite that resistance to the project, it’s still planned to happen, and it’s slated for construction in 2024.

At Eastern Hancock’s board meeting on Monday, Dec. 9, INDOT officials will present information about J-turns and why they want to install one along U.S. 40, said Mallory Duncan, an INDOT spokeswoman.

A J-turn prevents vehicles from crossing all four lanes of a highway at once. Instead, drivers from an intersecting road, such as 600E, would have to turn right, merge into a “safe lane” and then make a U-turn before merging back onto the highway. Drivers traveling along a four-lane highway, like U.S. 40, who intend to turn left at an intersecting road can still make a left turn from a protected median area, yielding to oncoming vehicles, according to INDOT.

Engineers say J-turns lessen the chances of high-impact crashes. From 2015-17, there were 13 crashes at U.S. 40 and 600E; 11 were left-turn crashes from vehicles turning onto U.S. 40. Three of those caused injuries or death, Duncan said. Statistics also show the number of crashes at an intersection is cut in half where J-turns are installed, according to INDOT.

Scott Petry, president of the Eastern Hancock School Board, told the Daily Reporter that the board wanted to keep parents informed about INDOT’s plan. He said the intersection of U.S. 40 and 600E is “critical” to school transportation and the agriculture community. The county road is a main thoroughfare for people who live in the southern part of the county, he said, and several school buses travel through the intersection. Also, Petry said, farmers use the road to transport grain to Morristown.

Petry, who lives on 600E, said he’s not sure the J-turn is the best idea for the intersection, saying it might cause traffic and safety issues. He said inviting INDOT officials to speak about their proposal gives the board and school administrators an opportunity to voice their opinions in a public meeting.

EH Superintendent Dave Pfaff said many in the community were concerned about the plan when they read about it in the Daily Reporter a few months ago, and they still have questions about its impact.

“We believe we have a responsibility not only to our students but to our entire community,” Pfaff wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter, “and we felt it best for all concerned that we hear INDOT’s thinking and have an honest discussion with them about their concerns and our concerns.”

Duncan said the presentation isn’t a public hearing, so there won’t be any set time from INDOT for public input. The school board, however, typically allows time for public comment on agenda items. The district also posted on Facebook about the presentation and invited anyone to come and ask questions.

The board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the Eastern Hancock High School cafeteria, 10320 E. County Road 250N, Charlottesville.

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The Eastern Hancock School Board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the cafeteria at Eastern Hancock High School, 10320 E. County Road 250N, Charlottesville. The board will hear a presentation from officials with the Indiana Department of Transportation about the proposed J-turn at U.S. 40 and County Road 600E.