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At a cross roads: Neighbors, officials weigh options to improve safety, traffic flow at Oak/Kissel intersection

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By Ann Marie Shambaugh

When Norb Stransky purchased his home at the corner of Oak Street and Kissel Road more than 20 years ago, he was sold on its proximity to family and an easy route to work.

What he didn’t expect was the frequent car accidents just outside his front door and the responsibility of often being the first person on the scene.

“You don’t move into a house thinking you’re going to become a first responder,” Stransky said.

His next door neighbor, Jill Meyers, feels the same way. She used to run to the scene whenever she heard a crash, but one wreck involving a victim with a severely bleeding compound fracture led her to reconsider her role.

“That was kind of intense, and my kids were all there,” she said. “We just happened to be out in the yard when it happened. I didn’t really want them to have that experience anymore.”

In early April, Zionsville officials released the results of a traffic study by Beam Longest Neff that recommended installing a traffic light at the intersection as a short-term fix to alleviate congestion. The project is estimated to cost $93,000, and Zionsville Mayor Tim Haak said the town could use funds from an expected “influx of cash from the state” in County Option Income Tax funds to help pay for the signal.

“We’re working on a design plan now for it and working on a budget to see how much it’s going to cost,” he said. “If they come back where they think we are (on cost), then we most likely will be able to install that this year.”

The study stated that with an hourly volume of more than 1,300 vehicles going through the intersection between the peak hours of 7 and 8 a.m. and more than 1,600 vehicles between 5 and 6 p.m., a signal to help with traffic flow is needed. Traffic is only expected to increase as additional homes are built in Zionsville and Whitestown.

The recommendation to install a signal is based solely on traffic counts. Data from the Boone Co. Sheriff’s Office shows there were more than a dozen wrecks at or near the intersection in both 2014 and 2015.

“Although there have been accidents near this intersection, the rate does not appear to be alarming and would appear to typically be a result of driver inattentiveness,” it states. “No warrants have been identified for signalization of this intersection based on accidents.”

After living near the intersection for 12 years, Meyers isn’t convinced that’s the case.

“Distracted driving probably counts for a lot of the accidents, but you can’t tell me that counts for every single one of the accidents,” she said. “You just have a lot going on at this intersection.”

Meyers would prefer to see a roundabout at the intersection, which is the town’s long-term goal for the area. The study states that constructing a double-lane roundabout would take special funding – which has not currently been identified by the town – and at least two years to implement with right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation and other factors. Haak expects it to take much longer than that, but he said roundabouts could be a first step in a future widening of Oak Street.

“One thing that we could do and probably will do, is before (Oak Street) goes to four lanes is put roundabouts at Oak and Kissell and Oak and Cooper,” Haak said. “You can design those roundabouts now to support a four-lane road in the future.”

Stransky has mixed feelings about the future roundabout, which would cut into his property. But until that happens, he’s prepared for the consequences of living next to the intersection.

“When these accidents do occur, it’s a little unsettling to say the least,” he said. “I’m thankful there is a tree at that intersection and we have a berm in front of the house, because I think in some respects (that’s why) we haven’t had a car in the front lawn yet. We’ve lost stop signs. We’ve lost the hydrant. Different calamities have occurred at that intersection from one extreme to the other extreme.”


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