If the 126th St. stop sign is removed, then what?


The fight about removal of the 126th Street stop sign rages on.

The Carmel City Council recently considered the issue of removing a controversial stop sign at 126th Street and Auman Drive but nothing was settled yet. The removal effort failed with a 3-4 vote but it was later decided to revive the bill and stick in committee so another solution can be determined.

At least five of the seven city councilors say they would like to see something else go in place of the stop sign such as a roundabout, a traffic light or widened lanes. City Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider voted in favor of removing the stop sign but prefaced it by saying he wants some other solution but realizes that these things have to be done in steps.

So it appears that the bill — which sits in committee — comes with the mandate to find another solution. City Councilor Sue Finkam, sponsor of the bill, said she doesn’t think it’s appropriate to amend the bill to include funding for road improvements or a roundabout since the ordinance only deals with removing a stop sign and she said that’s two separate issues. But judging by the votes it seems that with our current council — and this issue could go on past the election — that the majority wants something in place besides just pulling the sign.

City Councilor Luci Snyder said they’ve invited City Engineer Jeremy Kashman to a committee meeting to discuss the options. Here they are:

DON’T DO ANYTHING – Finkam said if the stop sign is removed that nothing else needs to be put in its placed. She’s backed up by City Councilor Ron Carter, Kashman and Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard.

“There’s only one option recommended by the city engineer and he’s a trained expert and that is to remove the stop sign,” Brainard said.

Kashman said he looks at “a lot of facts and not feelings” and that their guidelines show that simply pulling the stop sign should be sufficient to reduce congestion.

“The best recommendation at this moment in time is to just remove the stop sign,” he said.

City Councilor Luci Snyder said the heavy traffic volume on 126th Street means she disagrees with the idea that just pulling the sign is a solution.

“Nobody in their right mind can say that’s an ordinary street,” she said. “It has special traffic circumstances.”

I’ve had one person tell me, “If Finkam or Carter don’t have the votes, why don’t they just compromise to get the sign removed?” I asked Finkam that she said it’s bad policy, especially to spend six figures of taxpayer money on a unnecessary project for what she feels is political reasons.

City Council President Rick Sharp, who is running for mayor against Brainard, conversely said that he thinks Finkam brought this up just for politics.

“I’m not convinced that this isn’t a smoke screen,” he said. “Why is this being brought up now a few months before the election?”

TRAFFIC LIGHT or PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALK – Although these are technically two different things, they both use the idea of calming traffic through a timed device. The idea is that the traffic light would stay green the majority of the day for east-west traffic, but only on a few occasions would it change to allow traffic to leave Auman Drive.

“I don’t think an on-demand light would be much of a burden to motorists,” Snyder said.

Kashman said it could cost around $150,000. He said most of the traffic signals in Carmel are “on-demand” but usually the volume is generally equal going both ways. He doesn’t support this idea.

“It’s not warranted for a stop sign, so it’s not warranted for a traffic signal,” he said. “So that’s the concern that I have.”

Rick Smith, a resident who leaves near Auman Drive and is affected, said he supports the idea of replacing the stop sign with a pedestrian crossing or a traffic light, but he’s disappointed that Brainard isn’t considering that idea. He said motorists speed on 126th Street and something has to be done for the sake of public safety.

Smith spoke at length at a council meeting to elaborate on his opinion and he quotes an e-mail he received from Brainard that seems to say that the mayor wanted to put a pedestrian crossing in there. Smith said the e-mail, which was provided to the council, shows in his opinion that Brainard was being “political” in deciding to remove the stop sign.

Finkam said she thinks spending $150,000 on this unwarranted light is a waste of money, but Snyder disagrees, saying that if you divide among Carmel households it would be a small amount. Snyder went on to describe all of the ways that she feels Carmel wastes money and this would not be a waste. She even mentioned all of the money spent on flowers by the city, which she wasn’t necessarily criticizing, but to illustrate that there’s money available for this project. Rider suggested that money could be borrowed from the Rainy Day reserve fund.

ROUNDABOUT – If you can’t get residents to completely stop, some city councilors feel there’s a need to slow traffic down with “traffic calming devices” like a roundabout. Installing a roundabout though can cost around half a million dollars and sometimes property needs to be purchased to complete construction. Kashman said the actual Auman Drive intersection has been discussed in the past but he doesn’t think it’s a good candidate due to low traffic volume coming out of Auman and because they would probably have to purchase property – maybe even homes – to build it.

“I would rather see that money spent on an intersection that warrants a roundabout,” Kashman said.

He said it would be better to construct one further east, say at Kinser Avenue. If that were to occur, then residents who wish to turn left out of Auman Drive could now turn right easily and then make a U-turn at the roundabout to head west of 126th Street.

Smith said he thinks a roundabout is overkill and would take too long to construct.

“That’s like building a train when a bus will do,” he said.

City Council President Rick Sharp said he thinks a roundabout isn’t needed as well.

City Councilor Eric Seidensticker, who represents the area, said he isn’t advocating for a roundabout but that it shouldn’t be dismissed as an absurd notion. There are plenty of roads in the western portion of Carmel that have roundabouts in residential areas.

WIDENING ROADS –  Sharp said one option he think should be considered is widening 126th Street to handle more traffic since it’s becoming a popular road to take since The Carmel City Center and The Palladium opened.

“It seems to me that road should be four lanes all the way to Keystone,” he said. “It’s a major thoroughfare and it’s going to carry even more traffic than it does now and how do you do that without more lanes?”

Of course, widening the road could take some time and could cost millions. Kashman said it’s a separate debate.

“The widening of 126th Street or the reconstruction is a completely different issue than the stop sign,” he said. “Our recommendation in the future would be two-lane parkway with two sixteen foot lane and a center median that we would landscape. That would be sufficient for traffic between Range Line and Keystone.”

Brainard and Finkam disagree with Sharp that 126th Street should be four lanes. There also talk of trying to get nearby home developers to help pay for road improvements but no specifics were released.


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