Chesterton Tribune

Duneland Schools seek answers from INDOT on hospital traffic concerns

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The potential of 3,000 to 4,000 vehicles going to and from the new Porter Regional Hospital daily has Duneland Schools Superintendent Dirk Baer eager to know if the state has specific plans when it comes to making local roads safer for Duneland school children.

At Thursday’s school board meeting, Baer asked the board for its recommendation on sending a letter to the Indiana Department of Transportation asking for a response to concerns on what modifications may be coming for the roadways connected to the hospital which sits a short distance from Ind. 49 on U.S. 6.

Traffic will outlet onto U.S. 6 from all directions when the hospital opens for business on Aug. 25, three days after the start of the 2012-2013 school year for students.

“All of us can fully assume the traffic will change dramatically,” Baer said.

School buses from Liberty Elementary and Intermediate schools will use those roads and there will be buses coming in and out of Jackson Twp. four times per day, Baer said.

Board member Ralph Ayres said the schools should raise inquiries on the fact the change in shifts at the hospital will reportedly occur at 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., exactly when children are being transported to and from school.

Possible improvements that have been brought up in discussions on other county and municipal boards indicate INDOT may widen U.S. 6 to four or five lanes, but INDOT has not made those intentions public. If a traffic light is put in, Ayres said that would bring the count of lights to four between Ind. 49 and Meridian Road, slowing traffic down.

Increasing the road to four traffic lanes with a separate turn lane would be the “ideal” solution, Ayres said. He hopes some type of solution, whether it would be short-term or long-term, will fall into place.

Fellow board member Ronald Stone said he resides in close proximity to Meridian Rd. and CR 700N and estimates there are seven to 10 accidents per year at that intersection. He said someone from the Porter County Sheriff’s Police told him that is the second worst intersection in the county for traffic collisions. Hospital traffic would only heighten the danger in that area, Stone said.

“Hopefully they can get a light or something there. That’s an accident waiting to happen,” he said.

Board member Mike Trout said he toured the new hospital on Wednesday and as he was leaving, there was a PCSP officer putting up traffic cones, indicating police are aware of the potential traffic dangers.

“There is some thought going on there,” he said.

The board unanimously approved the letter addressed to INDOT Deputy Commissioner of the LaPorte District Bob Alderman.

A Porter Health Care System official told the Chesterton Tribune on Thursday that a traffic light will be in place by the time the hospital opens.

Posted 7/13/2012