WARSAW, Ind. (WANE) – In the past five years, U.S. 30 East from Warsaw to the Ohio line has seen 2,700 crashes in its 60 miles.
That is higher than average, making it dangerous with a 73% chance an accident will occur every day, according to Rusty Holt, whose firm, Propel, is conducting a study of that highway stretch for the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).
Propel is in the midst of a two-year study that will result in recommendations to make U.S. 30 East less dangerous and more easily accessible. The study’s findings are expected to be completed and published in the fall of 2024. In the intervening time, there will be three more chances for public input, Holt said.
The study begins at Beech Road, one mile west into Marshall County from the Kosciusko County line to the Ohio state line, but the study doesn’t include I-69 or I-469, Holt said.
In a survey, public comments were broken down into three areas: 37% cited safety, 36% focused on mobility and access and 25% on “multi-modal” which translates into the high truck volume on the road which has 189 access points.
The number of access points, such as intersections, could be reduced because “they cause disruption to traffic flow,” Holt said in a PowerPoint presentation delivered in front of the Allen County Commissioners Friday at their weekly legislative meeting.
Improving U.S. 30 is vital to regional development as well as economic development expected to grow, said Holt who is the study’s manager. One third of U.S. 30 East traffic is trucks, he added.
Three specific needs have been identified and include roadway safety, mobility for the local user, and efficiency and reliability for regional mobility, said Holt, who described U.S. 30 East as a “very complicated corridor.”
Traffic breaks down to about half local traffic and half pass-through, Holt said.
Commissioner Nelson Peters wanted to know if vehicle crashes were happening at traffic signals or because of speed. Holt said 70% of crashes are in the urban areas along the route that includes Warsaw, Columbia City, Fort Wayne and New Haven. About 60% of the crashes are “rear-enders at signals.”
“The crash rate is a problem, something that needs to be looked at sooner than later,” Holt said.
Improvements could include removing traffic signals or making them operate better. There are a “handful of intersections between the Allen County line and I-69 that are more problematic than others from a safety perspective. Those are ones that INDOT has already viewed as high priority. There are projects moving forward in that area. But there are a couple more intersections that are a higher crash rate than average, significantly higher than average that we would need to address sooner than later.”
The county line between Whitley and Allen counties is a good example, Holt said. “That one is a high crash location.” The dangerous intersection needs bigger projects to make the changes needed, he added.
Commissioner Richard Beck said he was surprised to find out that the average speed is found to be lower than the posted speed. But Holt said the speeds slow down for traffic signals and congestion.
Of course, making improvements to 60 miles of heavily-used highway will cost money, but Holt said his firm, one of three working on U.S. 30 and 31, aren’t the decision makers when it comes to funding. The U.S. 31 study starts north of Indianapolis and finishes at U.S. 30.