A proposal to add J-turn intersections to U.S. 31 drew an overflow crowd to the Argos Town Hall Tuesday. Officials with the Indiana Department of Transportation say that adding J-turn intersections at State Road 10 and State Road 110 would significantly improve safety.
Under the plan, cars would no longer be able to cross U.S. 31 directly. Instead, they would have to turn right, make a u-turn, and then turn right again.
Because of the existing railroad overpass, cars heading east on State Road 10 would have to turn south on U.S. 31, continue over the railroad tracks, past Dewey Street, turn around, and come back again, before continuing into Argos. Meanwhile, the J-turn intersections would still let cars traveling on U.S. 31 make left turns directly onto State Road 10 or State Road 110. The aim is to prevent cars coming from different directions all crossing paths at a single point.
Many of those attending Tuesday’s public information meeting agreed that the intersection at U.S. 31 and State Road 10 needs safety upgrades. But some questioned how effective a J-turn intersection would be, considering the amount of traffic on U.S. 31 and the number of trucks using the intersection.
Others, like County Commissioner Kevin Overmyer, felt the proposal doesn’t fit with plans to upgrade U.S. 31 to freeway standards. “My opinion is the long-term solution is an overpass,” he said. “And with the Town of Argos purchasing about 80 acres just off of Dewey and 17th Street for an industrial park – I guess they’re in the works of putting up a manufacturing center out there, which will hopefully draw business. So now you’re going to take that business and move it over into a J-turn. And as a member of the U.S. 31 Coalition, our focus is a freeway, no J-turns.”
While INDOT officials say they’re also considering an overpass and interchange, they believe a J-turn intersection would be a more cost-effective short-term solution. “As INDOT being the state’s transportation agency, we have to be mindful stewards of taxpayer dollars,” explained INDOT Public Involvement Director Rickie Clark. “It becomes an issue as yes, it’s physically possible, certainly it can be done, but you have to also weigh that against the cost, the environmental impact. Certainly there would be some real estate that would have to be acquired to put in that type of treatment. So it’s a balancing of sorts for the state.”
Engineers with the Troyer Group estimate a J-turn intersection at U.S. 31 and State Road 10 would cost $2 million or less, compared to at least $10 million for a typical overpass. A J-turn intersection would also be much quicker to install. If the project goes according to plan, construction could begin as soon as next summer
However, Clark stressed that plans are not set in stone, and INDOT is open to any input. “We’ll utilize that information to make a decision,” he said. “Maybe that decision is this isn’t the absolute right time for this type of treatment. Maybe this isn’t the treatment at all. We’ve heard from the Town of Argos. We’ve heard from other stakeholders, and there doesn’t seem to be support for the proposal. But we did want to present something for folks to take a look at and review.”
As plans continue to be refined, another public input session will likely take place in September. For more information or to submit a comment, visit the INDOT LaPorte District website.