VALPARAISO — Indiana Department of Transportation officials believe a roundabout at the intersection of Indiana 2 and Heavilin Road could lower accidents and improve traffic flow.
Some residents who are familiar with the area aren't so sure.
The state agency held a public hearing on the proposed project at Heavilin Elementary School Monday night.
The roundabout proposal stems from a number of studies in the area. A traffic study from 2015 found the new elementary had increased traffic in the area and that by 2036, it could become gridlocked. There have been 25 accidents in the area since 2010.
INDOT hired a private contractor, Troyer Group, to come up with a number of remedies. Among the proposals was a single-lane roundabout, considered statistically safer.
The $1.5-million project would build the roundabout slightly north of Ind. 2, a move that contractors believe would decrease the time the highway would be closed.
“(This) should not require full closure,” said Chris Wagner, who represented Troyer Group during the hearing. “Basically, we would do the roundabout first (and) some temporary paving with traffic moved off to the side.”
Heavilin would be closed later to connect the lanes to the roundabout.
Wagner said for the level of traffic and frequency of use, the roundabout would minimize accidents and regulate speeds.
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Some residents aren't convinced, citing their own experience driving on Valparaiso's many roundabouts.
Samantha Williams said she was skeptical that INDOT's data for justifying the construction was being used properly.
Williams' concern is that roundabouts might even exacerbate the current traffic issues. In her experience, distracted driving or simply lack of experience with roundabouts has been responsible for fatal accidents.
“As someone who interned with the Porter County coroner for a year and a half, I can tell you there are many, many other locations that have more than three crashes a year at a certain place,” she said.
Others were far more supportive of the proposal, praising the existing ones in the city.
Jennifer Hora, a resident who is a professor at Valparaiso University, said her years of experience with public policy and discussions with her engineer husband have convinced her that roundabouts are often the best solution.
Her only doubt is with the 2015 study, which she believes underestimated traffic issues compared to her experience picking up her children from Heavilin Elementary. She said they may not have taken after-school activities into account.
“Getting your children in and out of (the school), it's not safe,” she said. “I believe the experts that a roundabout will help solve that."
The earliest road construction could start is in 2020.