INDOT Proposes Intersection Improvements on East Side

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) is proposing a number of road improvements in Bloomington and Monroe County to the Bloomington Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (BMCMPO) in the upcoming years. Two in particular planned for the east side caught my attention.

The first is intersection improvements at State Road 46 (3rd Street) and N Smith Road. The lack of turn lanes at that intersection often causes a single poorly-positioned left turner to to take up an entire light cycle, causing significant unnecessary congestion, as well as potentially dangerous maneuvers to get around the blocked intersection.

The second project is one that I’ve been calling for for a long time — to improve the intersection at State Road 45 (10th Street) and Pete Ellis (to the south) and Range Road (to the north). This intersection sees many of the same problems as 3rd Street and Smith Rd — lack of turn lanes causes frequent very dangerous passing maneuvers. And now that we know that this intersection will be a backup entrance to the new hospital/medical campus, it becomes even more crucial that this intersection be fixed.

The following map shows the locations:

Screenshot 2018-09-13 09.53.27

Unfortunately we won’t be seeing these improvements soon enough. The INDOT proposal shows the engineering/design being performed in Fiscal Year 2019 (which we are already in, running from July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019), any right-of-way acquisition in Fiscal Year 2021, and construction in future years (Fiscal Year 2022 or beyond — the MPO Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) only runs through Fiscal 2021).

Nonetheless, I’m glad to finally see some action on these two dangerous and important intersections.

The MPO Policy Committee will be asked to add these projects, along with other INDOT improvement projects, to the Transportation Improvement Program on Friday, at 1:30 PM. The meeting packet is available here.

Dangerous Intersection at State Road 45 and Pete Ellis Drive/Range Road

The intersection of State Road 45 (10th Street) and Pete Ellis Dr (to the south) and Range Rd (to the north) is unsafe and needs to be addressed. And as bad as it is now, in five years when IU Health Bloomington Hospital moves to the area north of Range Road, it will be 10 times worse, as this intersection will be the backup/alternate route to/from the hospital. Because this intersection is on a state road (SR 45), the road is in the state’s jurisdiction (i.e., not in the jurisdiction of the City of Bloomington or Monroe County).

The following map shows the intersection that I am concerned about:

Map of Range Road Area
Map of Range Road Area

The following diagram illustrates the problem with this intersection. Basically, there are a lot of cars traveling on SR45 (10th Street) going westbound that stop at the traffic signal to make a left turn (there is no left turn lane or leading light). However, many motorists traveling behind the stopped car (or cars) will attempt to pass on the right, despite lack of a passing lane. When the car at the intersection turns left, it creates an unsafe and ambiguous situation, in which the car behind the car making the left turn will move ahead and go straight through the intersection (properly), while at the same time a car is passing them on the right in an area that isn’t large enough to merge back in safely.

SR45 - Range Road/Pete Ellis Intersection
SR45 – Range Road/Pete Ellis Intersection

The crash statistics bear out the perception that this is a dangerous intersection. Per the 2012-2014 Draft Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization Crash Report:

  • This intersection ranks 14th in overall crashes from all the intersections in the MPO boundary, up from 32nd, and averaging 18 crashes per year.
  • When weighted by traffic volume, the overall crash rate (crashes per million entering vehicles) is ranked 22nd among all intersections
  • And ranked by severity of crash, it is 16th in the county.

Although INDOT has, at some point, planned to reconstruct state road 45 from the bypass east to Russell Road, at this point they have no plans to address the situation. As serious as the situation is right now, the situation will become dire if not addressed before IU Health Bloomington Hospital relocates in the Range Road area.

Here is a brief history of INDOT’s purported plans in this area. from what I can ascertain from searches of local media:

  • INDOT announced in 2005 that widening SR 45 from the bypass to Russell Road was on their 10-year priority list for the area (Source: Herald Times)
  • Governor Mitch Daniels announced in September of 2005 that the widening of SR45 from the bypass to Pete Ellis Dr was planned for 2006 (Source: Herald Times)
  • In a “final” 10-year plan for Major Moves projects, the widening of the bypass, plus widening SR 45 from the bypass to Pete Ellis would be completed in 2008-2009, and from Pete Ellis to Russell Road would be completed by 2011 (Source: Herald Times)
  • INDOT held a public hearing on the proposed SR45 improvements at University Elementary School on September 18, 2008 (I attended and spoke at this public hearing about providing better pedestrian access to University Elementary School)
  • In October 2008, INDOT launched a Web site dedicated to the potential widening of SR45 from Pete Ellis to Russell Road: www.in.gov/indot/div/projects/sr45/. Unfortunately this Web site no longer exists. However, due to the wonders of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, the contents of this site are still available! Most importantly, INDOT updated the site on 2010-03-24 to say:
    • “Due to an extensive “re-racking” process recently completed by INDOT and state of Indiana leadership, the road improvement project on State Road 45 (E 10th Street in Bloomington) from Pete Ellis Drive to Russell Road has been shelved. This means that the scheduled Begin Construction date is now TBD (To Be Determined). This effectively means that the project will not be considered for possible re-activation until 2020 at the earliest.”
  • In January of 2013, the Hotline column of the Herald Times reported that Beth Hamilton from INDOT stated that the expansion of SR45 from the bypass to Pete Ellis was “still an active project”, but that there had been no bid-letting date scheduled, so no date was available (Source: Herald Times)
  • In October of 2015, Brandi Fischvogt from the INDOT Seymour District (the district that has jurisdiction over Monroe County) wrote me to tell me that she had been informed that “INDOT does not currently have any projects planned in this area”.
The upshot is that INDOT does not have any plans at all to address this dangerous intersection, whether through a broader road reconstruction, or a more targeted solution. This is not acceptable. We as a community need to work together and work with INDOT to make sure that this situation is addressed before a major new regional hospital moves in.
I am already working to put together a group to raise the profile of this issue, and would very much appreciate any suggestions or ideas from other members of the community.