By Nancy Edwards
Two months have passed since construction at the intersection of 96th Street and Allisonville Road has been completed. Since then, drivers have been using the median U-turns in place of left-hand turn signals at each corner.
The project was designed to reduce accidents and wait time at traffic lights, especially during peak rush hour times, while improving overall service.
Now the question up for debate is: Has the recent change improved the problems?
According to Jeff Hill, director of engineering for the Town of Fishers, the answer is yes.
“The feedback has been positive; people are saying ‘boy, I can really get (to my destination) quicker now, the reduced congestion is definitely there’; this was one of our goals,” Hill said. “There are a handful of people who have contacted us and said ‘I thought there was no way this would have worked before’; we’ve got a handful of converts.”
The 16-phase, locally-funded $8,000,000 project began in April 2012 and concluded in August. The town researched a variety of options to improve traffic at the intersection and decided to pursue the implementation of median U-turns as the most cost-effective and minimally invasive for existing businesses and the environment, according to Hill.
The project has often been dubbed “Michigan Left,” due to the frequent usage of median U-turns along roads and highways in Michigan since the 1960s.
Perhaps the biggest challenge since the project’s completion has been confusion among drivers who may not be paying attention to signals directing them to where they can or cannot turn, resulting in crashes.
Chelsea Atwell, a server at Café Du Meemo, 9642 Allisonville Rd., said she has seen a number of accidents due to people ignoring the no-left-turn signs.
“I think people haven’t been here in a while and don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “It’s the first time they’ve seen this.”
Hill said that 99 percent of the time, drivers are not afraid to honk their horns to alert a driver attempting to turn left where they shouldn’t. He added that the town has been trying to educate those who are unfamiliar with the new system.
“The police have been a pretty good presence (at the intersection) and have been fairly forgiving in the beginning,” he said. “We are pointing people to the town’s website.”
The Drive Fishers Website, www.fishers.in.us/index.aspx?NID=381, includes a video that explains how to successfully make a left turn movement.
Some businesses along the intersection, including CVS Pharmacy, 9550 Allisonville Rd., have reported that their business has not been affected by the new system.
Store manager of CVS, Victoria Lobb, acknowledged that while business slowed during construction, “we’re getting back to normal.”
However, others including store manager Moe Patel of Subway, 9546 Allisonville Rd., have stated that their business has suffered significantly.
“We’ve been losing a lot of business,” Patel said. “We used to have more customers; now they have to make a U-turn and then have to stop four times (to get here). This place is dead. Some businesses are OK, some are dead.”
As for residents like Velda Qualkenbush, several have said they still do not see the advantages to the project and find the system confusing.
“In my opinion it was a tax dollar waste,” Qualkenbush said. “I still do not see how it helped traffic flow.”
Hill acknowledged that while he understands the community as a whole may not entirely be on board for the new project, he thinks they may have a change of heart after witnessing the advantages.
“There are people on the opposite side who still think ‘This is dumb; why do I have to turn right to go left?’ We try to explain the overall reduced time (by using the U-turns). As they continue to drive, they’ll see (the system) is working for them.”