J-turn jam: Public hearings on 600 East, Logan Road set for next week

Fran Ruchalski | Pharos-TribuneTraffic at the intersection of U.S. 24 and 600 East, where INDOT proposes installing a J-turn to try to prevent vehicle crashes. From 2010-2016, there have been 43 crashes at the intersection, according to INDOT — more than half resulting in injuries.

The Indiana Department of Transportation hit the brakes on six J-turn projects in northern Indiana on Tuesday, according to two state legislators and the transportation department.

Over the past few months, INDOT officials have shared proposals for two J-turn intersections on U.S. 24 in Cass County and four along U.S. 31 in Marshall and Miami counties. Many residents have been fighting the projects, voicing their concerns at public meetings and hearings.

State Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, and State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, said in a Tuesday, Nov. 14 press release that INDOT decided to nix its proposal to install J-turns at 600 East and Logansport Road on U.S. 24 and the four on U.S. 31 at Indiana 218, 18, 10 and 110.

“This announcement comes after several conversations with local officials, INDOT and the governor’s office,” Friend said. “Ultimately, it came down to the public. They came out, voiced their concerns and let INDOT know how J-turns could impact our community. I want to thank INDOT for their willingness to listen to our concerns.”

Doug Moats, public information officer for the INDOT LaPorte District, confirmed the cancellation of the project proposals on Tuesday.

"INDOT will continue to monitor traffic safety conditions along the U.S. 31 corridor," Moats said in an email. "We will continue our open dialogue with residents, business, owners and local officials while keeping all options on the table for improving safety and mobility in the long-term."

Head tweeted about the announcement on Tuesday. He represents Cass and Marshall counties.

"Thanks to all who appeared at public hearings or sent their comments to INDOT," Head wrote. "YOUR PARTICIPATION HELPED!"

The department had planned on construction at the two U.S. 24 intersections to begin in 2018. INDOT has received numerous public comments at meetings and via email or snail mail.

Head and Friend recently met with Gov. Eric Holcomb and INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness to discuss the overwhelming opposition to the projects.

“Many constituents and I have voiced our opposition to J-turns to INDOT, as they would back up traffic and require vehicles to merge through four lanes of traffic to turn,” Head said in the press release. “I am pleased INDOT is willing to reexamine its original plan, and I am eager to work with INDOT to find an even better solution to the problem.”

According to INDOT, a J-turn prevents vehicles from crossing all four lanes of a highway at once. Instead, vehicles have to merge into a "safe lane" and then make a U-turn before merging back onto the highway. Engineers say the J-turn lessens the chances of T-boning or similar crashes.

There were 85 crashes — 50 resulting in injuries — at both 600 East and Logansport Road in the span of seven years. Many residents said the J-turns would make it difficult for farm and other large vehicles to navigate a U-turn and might cause more crashes because of that.

Some members of the public said realigning the intersections to 90-degree angles would be a better fit for the rural area than J-turns.

INDOT's first J-turn intersection in Indiana is at U.S. 41 at Ind. 114, near Morocco. Ever since that J-turn was constructed in May 2015, no injury crashes have occurred. Before then, transportation officials say it was one of the most dangerous highway intersections in the state.

Reach Ben Middelkamp at ben.middelkamp@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5117.

Reach Ben Middelkamp at 574-732-5117 or ben.middelkamp@pharostribune.com

Reach Ben Middelkamp at 574-732-5117 or ben.middelkamp@pharostribune.com

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Ben Middelkamp is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He covers local education news as well as weekend events. He can be reached at ben.middelkamp@pharostribune.com or by phone at 574-732-5117.

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