Chesterton Tribune

49 roundabout proposed for Porter Gateway plan

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By PAULENE POPARAD

And the winner is ..... a roundabout.

That’s the recommendation for a relocated Indiana 49 intersection north of Oak Hill Road proposed to serve the Porter County Tourism visitor center and related new development tied to the Town of Porter’s Gateway to the Indiana Dunes project.

The roundabout is envisioned as an iconic, welcoming “front door” to announce the Dunes experience is being extended beyond the immediate Lake Michigan shoreline.

According to a $110,000 draft Indiana 49 corridor feasibility study presented to the Porter Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday, the roundabout is favored as a traffic control and traffic-calming measure over a standard signalized intersection.

Advocates say roundabouts keep traffic moving faster and more reliably than a typical stop-and-go intersection.

While it’s recommended the Gateway roundabout be designed with features that would facilitate its use by semi-truck traffic, it also is recommended that an evaluation take place of alternative truck routing through other major arterials to improve efficiency and safety for Indiana 49 motorists and pedestrians/cyclists.

Gateway consultant A.J. Monroe of SEH said engineers are comfortable that a roundabout can be built to accomodate semi-trucks.

Commission member Bruce Snyder questioned the reliability of computerized intersection modeling. “Once everything’s done and the engineers and professionals walk away, we have real life.” Member Al Raffin questioned how trucks maneuver on the roundabout in Valparaiso now.

Other changes proposed, said Monroe, are that Indiana 49 north of the roundabout be reduced from four lanes to two lanes with a median. At U.S. 12 an exclusive northbound left turn lane is recommended to provide more space for turning vehicles.

In addition, the driveway access points off U.S. 12 to the parking areas at the Dune Park South Shore station should be evaluated for possible modifications, said the Indiana 49 study. The station is envisioned to play a greater role in bringing Gateway tourists to the area.

The Indiana Department of Transportation currently is reconstructing the Indiana 49 bridges over U.S. 12 and the South Shore railroad as two rather than the current four lanes. In FY 2012 INDOT has scheduled north of the bridges to rebuild four-lane Indiana 49 as a two-lane section with landscaped parkways, trails and walkways into the Indiana Dunes State Park, according to the town’s Indiana 49 study.

Monroe said the Gateway plan was conceived after INDOT decided to reduce travel lanes into the park. “It needs to be said again the project sponsored by the town is reacting to a decision already made.”

He emphasized it’s up to INDOT, not the town, whether Gateway’s recommendations for Indiana 49 will be accepted.

Redevelopment Commission member LeAnn McCrum said the town is trying to proactively influence INDOT with its feasibility study. Porter director of engineering Matt Keiser said having the Indiana 49 study will carry more weight with INDOT.

Monroe noted south of U.S. 12 even INDOT needs concurrence from the Federal Highway Administration to make any modifications to Indiana 49, which is intersected by U.S. 20 and Interstate 94 along the corridor. All Gateway improvements would be north of I-94.

Monroe said copies of the town’s 1-inch-thick Indiana 49 study were delivered to INDOT Monday for review; copies of it as well as of a companion Gateway Alternative Transportation Study will be available at the Porter town hall and on the town’s website.

The ATS recommendations propose a shuttle service be implemented for a trial period and notes “as the primary proponent of the ATS study, the Town of Porter would be in a good position to initiate and champion establishment of an ATS program in the Dunes Gateway/SR 49 corridor” through a collaborative effort of key stakeholders involved.

No specific financing plan is recommended, however, according to the study “it is likely that the primary responsibility will fall upon a single lead entity such as a municipality in the Dunes Gateway/SR 49 corridor.” While it’s politically or fiscally not practical a municipality alone would pay for the shuttle service, the study acknowleges, the ATS sponsor should investigate available state and federal funds.

The ATS draft report was not discussed by the Redevelopment Commission due to time constraints; it will be addressed with the Indiana 49 study recommendations at the April 26 meeting.

Monroe said Tuesday that the Indiana 49 study’s weekday/weekend traffic counts conducted June, 2010 show the four-lane road built to serve 36,000 vehicles per day handles less than one-third that volume.

Indiana 49 weekday volume from Oak Hill Road to U.S. 20 was 11,621 vehicles per day and 7,863 vehicles per weekend day. From U.S. 20 to U.S. 12, volume dropped to 8,775 vehicles per weekday and 6,899 vehicles per weekend day.

The study projected additional traffic volume that would result if some of the Gateway amenities are built like retail/restaurant uses, a mini-golf course/putting green, water park, hotel/conference center and resort hotel. The finding was a roundabout and two-lane Indiana 49 can accomodate future Gateway traffic demand.

Posted 4/13/2011