Motorists seeing red over congested intersections in the region

2011-07-23T19:30:00Z 2011-07-25T08:40:04Z Motorists seeing red over congested intersections in the regionBy Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

It likely comes as no surprise to motorists who rely on Ind. 49 in Porter County that the worst delays occur at the far north intersection with Indian Boundary Road in Chesterton, according to a recent study.

While it can take nearly two minutes to get a green light there during the morning commute, Ryan Hicks, transportation systems planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, said the delays worsen during off-peak hours.

It's among the many intersections drivers in the region go out of their way to avoid but all too often find themselves entrenched in, especially when they're in a rush.

While improvements often don't seem to come quickly enough, state, regional and local officials have taken notice of these trouble spots.

The Indiana Department of Transportation evaluates every traffic light in the 13-county LaPorte District at least once every four years and more often when complaints arise or when congestion develops, media relations director Jim Pinkerton said.

"We don't want to see them stacked up and sitting there either," he said.

The LaPorte District comprises Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper, Newton, Pulaski, Starke, Carroll, Cass, Fulton, Marshall, St. Joseph and White counties.

INDOT crews were busy recently installing equipment along U.S. 30, between Colorado Street in Hobart and Austin Avenue in Schererville, as part of a pilot program to use new software to monitor traffic flow along that busy stretch of highway. Purdue University developed the software.

NIRPC also is working to confront the problem with ongoing research that has identified the most congested corridors in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, while beginning a study of congestion on the 69 main arteries in the region, Hicks said. Visit www.nirpc.org/2040CRP/Draft/Appendices.html to view the research.

Congestion has an enormous cost, including increased pollution from idling cars, lost productivity and lost personal time, Hicks said.

Among the preferred solutions are better timing between traffic lights and the installation of more modern lights that respond to real-time traffic conditions, he said. The addition of turn lanes also can move traffic through intersections more efficiently.

Munster is taking a much more aggressive and expensive approach to relieving a severe congestion problem at Calumet and 45th avenues by reconstructing Calumet to pass under the railroad tracks at that location and bringing the east and west arms of 45th into alignment, Town Engineer Jim Mandon said.

Construction is expected to begin in two years and could cost as much as $28 million.

The town also has problems at Ridge Road and Harrison Avenue, he said. But short of working on the timing of the light, there is no fix in sight, he said.

The city of Valparaiso plans to break ground next month on the construction of a roundabout to relieve congestion at Silhavy and Vale Park roads, to be followed in 2012 by another roundabout to replace the light at its notorious five-point intersection where Calumet, Roosevelt and Vale Park roads come together, Engineering Director Tim Burkman said.

A reconfiguration is also in the works for the intersection at U.S. 30 and Silhavy Road in Valparaiso, in addition to adjusting traffic lights and moving lanes at other intersections in the city, he said.

INDOT's Pinkerton said he found a more immediate way to ease the intersection blues. He said he began timing some of the more frustrating light cycles and discovered they really were not taking as long as he thought.

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