WINFIELD | Officials are looking at ways to ease the pain for motorists caught in a daily procession of vehicles traveling 109th Avenue in peak commuter hours.
A study underway by the firm DLZ, the engineering firm selected by Winfield town officials, will help determine future improvements to the four-mile, two-lane, one-time country road running east-west between Interstate 65 and the Porter County line.
"The 109th Avenue Scoping Study will identify capacity and operational deficiencies and provide recommendations to mitigate those deficiencies," said Trisha Nugent, DLZ project manager.
Up to 15,532 cars per day on an average day travel 109th Avenue between I-65 and Randolph Street, according to a traffic count conducted as part of the DLZ scoping study, still in its early stages.
That's up from between 9,000 and 14,000 cars per day tallied at various 109th Avenue cross streets about a decade ago, according to town officials.
The vehicle procession at peak hours can be halted in conga line style anywhere along the route by one car making a left turn onto a side street or private drive, with sometimes uninvited results.
The study's look at crashes along the route determined rear-end collisions, usually resulting from a stopped car somewhere ahead in the line, accounted for more than half of all accidents.
The volume of traffic climbed over the past decade as residential construction added hundreds of homes to new subdivisions served by 109th Avenue between Crown Point and Winfield.
A new highway interchange opened in 2010 directly onto 109th Avenue from Interstate 65, helping drive up traffic volume.
More cars are expected as residential and commercial construction in the Crown Point and Winfield area rebounds in a strengthening economy.
Winfield town officials began nearly five years ago seeking funding through the office of U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, for a study of the road, Clerk-Treasurer Rick Anderson said.
"We were aware of the safety issues and saw growth of traffic on this road due to residential growth in our area," Anderson said.
By expanding the scope of the study to include Crown Point and Lake County, who each have jurisdiction over small segments of 109th Avenue, the town was able to secure 100 percent of federal highway funding for the project, amounting to $249,000, Anderson said.
One of a series of meeting planned by DLZ to gather public input brought more than a dozen people to Winfield Town Hall earlier this month.
Asked about negative aspects of 109th Avenue, audience members listed not enough lanes, hills that impair sight lines, no road shoulder and the need for better maintenance, as top concerns.
Additional public input will be sought and future meetings are planned to summarize results of the roadway study, Nugent, DLZ project manager, said. The information is still being examined, Nugent said.
The scoping study is expected to be completed in September 2014.
The traffic count also showed:
Traffic volume was heaviest at 109th Avenue and Randolph Street, with 15,532 cars a day on average. The daily average was 15,246 cars between Grand Boulevard and Arizona Street and 15,219 cars between Arizona and Colorado streets. An average 15,111 cars a day was tallied at 109th Avenue and Interstate 65.
The road's most heavily traveled intersection — 109th Avenue and Randolph Street — also saw the most accidents.
Forty seven crashes occurred there during the two-year period in which information was compiled from 2011 to 2013, according to DLZ. Grand Boulevard and Arizona Street each had 21 accidents at the intersection with 109th Avenue.
Rear-end collisions accounted for 82 of all 155 crashes reported, and they were spread pretty evenly along the route, not at any particular intersection.
A total 31 crashes were right-angle; 12 were left-turn and 10 were head on, with the rest made up of sideswipes and and right turn crashes.