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U-turn lanes open at US 30-Indiana 101

September 28, 2018

First, Allen County got roundabouts. Then came the Diverging Diamond.

Now, let’s welcome the Median U-Turn.

Indiana highway designers are introducing the concept to prevent crashes at intersections of highly traveled and less-traveled roads. The concept’s third incarnation in the state, but the first in northeast Indiana, opened late Thursday afternoon.

The site is the intersection of Indiana 101 and U.S. 30 in Jackson Township on the county’s far east side. The rural intersection requires drivers on Indiana 101 to cross lanes of busy traffic on U.S. 30 in both directions and a median strip.

Ideally, drivers would stop in the median before crossing the second set of lanes. But many don’t, said Nichole Hacha-Thomas, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Transportation.

That has meant more crashes : many of them right-angle crashes : at the intersection than at others along that stretch of U.S. 30, she said.

Only one fatal crash that she knows of has occurred there, Hacha-Thomas said, adding she did not have statistics on the number of crashes that did not involve a fatality.

“But one of the big things is that right-angle crashes are among the most dangerous. That’s basically a T-bone,” she said.

The new design has northbound drivers on Indiana 101 who want to go west on U.S. 30 or continue going straight on 101 toward Woodburn to make a right turn into the eastbound lanes and then move into a turning lane on the left side of the highway.

Drivers then make a left turn into the median and another left onto U.S. 30, where they continue going straight or move into the right lane to turn onto 101.

The same procedure applies to southbound Indiana 101 drivers who want to go east on U.S. 30 or continue going straight toward Decatur.

Drivers on U.S. 30 who want to get to Indiana 101 on the opposite side of the highway move right, then left and then make the U-turn and move right. 

“On paper, it does look confusing,” Hacha-Davis acknowledges. But, she predicted, “people get used to it.”

She said there’s plenty of room in the U-turn lanes for several tractor-trailers and passenger cars. “We specifically designed for large vehicles,” Hacha-Thomas said.

“We halted construction to bring large vehicles through it of varying widths and lengths and we made some changes based on that,” she said.

The Median U-Turn also allows for legal U-turns on U.S. 30 “for whatever reason,” Hacha-Thomas said.

According to state statistics, 90 percent of vehicles on Indiana 101 are passenger vehicles and 10 percent are commercial vehicles, including semis. On U.S. 30, 55 percent are passenger vehicles and 45 percent commercial.

Truck traffic is prevalent in the area because of industrial parks and plants, including B.F. Goodrich and new and proposed facilities outside Woodburn and New Haven. The intersection is also used by workers who live in Ohio or Fort Wayne.

Indiana highway officials say that although drivers may have to travel slightly farther to use a Median U-Turn, they will likely take the same or less time than waiting for a large enough gap to cross traffic.

Indiana’s first Median U-Turn opened at U.S. 41 and Indiana 114/Country Road 400 in Newton County. Since then the intersection, one of the worst in the state for injury crashes, has had only one injury crash despite heavier traffic, according to state highway officials.

Hacha-Thomas said the project cost was bundled into a $5 million, 9-mile reconstruction of Indiana 101. Some construction workers may be on scene until early October, she said.

rsalter@jg.net

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