Traffic Safety Commission recommends Union Street to transition to two-way street

Corner of North Union Street and West Fort Wayne Street in Warsaw. (Photo: Nick Deranek/News Now Warsaw)

Warsaw Traffic Commission Wednesday agreed to recommend to the City Council that Union Street should become a two-way street.

The request came before the commission from Tim Saylor, president of Innovative Communities, on behalf of Cary Groninger, who is co-developing a 62-home subdivision at the site of the former Gateway Education Center on Union Street.

Groninger Group is using the services of Innovative Communities for planning and conceptual design for the new housing plan that will be called Gateway Grove.

The site of the former Gateway Education Center and old Madison School is being transformed into housing. (Photo: Nick Deranek/News Now Warsaw)

Saylor told the commission Wednesday that back in the fall there was some discussion about the possibility about making all of Union Street – which is currently a one-way street – all a two-way street again.

“However, there was some concern about the intersection with Union and Lake streets,” Saylor said. “And so, as a result of that, we are requesting at this time that only the three-block section between Center (Street) and Porter Street be returned to two-way. If we look at these existing conditions, what we see if we’ve got West Street, parking limited to one side of the street, we’ve got Columbia Street, which is a two-way street with parking limited to one side, and then sandwiched in between we have Union Street, which is one-way only with parking limited to one side. No one can remember quite for sure but the thinking is that was done for safety and bus reasons for the Gateway school. Which, as of today, no longer exists.”

Groninger bought the former Warsaw Community School building in July and demolished it in January.

Saylor said Union Street is 24.5 feet wide, West Street is 26 feet wide and the northern parts of Columbia Street are 25 feet wide. He said that measurement on Union Street will leave adequate room for one-sided parking, two-lane traffic and also be effective at controlling speeds.

The main purpose of the request for the change in traffic lanes is so people who will live in Gateway Grove can access their homes easier instead of having to go a block or two out of their way to access an alley.

Saylor said homes are expected to be on the market by the end of the year.

The intersection at Union and Lake streets was a problem for the commission. Discussion involved Street Superintendent Dustin Dillon and how he could possibly re-work that intersection to widen it and make it safer if traffic were to return to two-way all the way.

“That corner is pretty bad right there as far as visibility, but there’s plenty of room right there to reconstruct that corner to make it easier,” Dillon said. “I mean, you’re talking 62 new homes out there, so you’re gonna add some traffic there, too, and funneling it all down one way or creating a circle you have to go around could potentially be a big issue, but I would rather see it be two-way the entire length of the street and do something with the intersection of the corner.”?

David Allbritten, commission member, asked Groninger if he’s spoken to any of the residents who live in the neighborhood. Groninger said he has reached out to neighbors with flyers and information about the upcoming housing and inviting them to come to his office with questions or concerns.

“My only thing that, from a developer’s perspective, is just, you know we’re trying to move forward with a project, trying to get some planning, where signage, where lighting is gonna go, and some of these things could be affected by whether these are gonna be one-way or two-way streets,” Groninger said. “As much as we want to wait a bit, I know it would be helpful for us to have clearer direction as we’re trying to get the final drawings.”

Dillon said reworking the intersection in question – if traffic were to become two-way all the way – would cost around $5,000, but said that was only an estimate.

“I know if we do return Union to two-way traffic, I mean, just like how Columbia is currently, just what you were talking about earlier … If you’re driving a larger pickup truck, it is tight for two vehicles to pass but that is actually a good thing because what normally happens is one of the people pulls into a parking area and then one goes through and it slows that traffic down. Right now, with Union being one way, they’ve got a full 18-foot lane to fly south,” Groninger said.

“I agree, if we’re gonna make it two-way, make it two-way all the way,” Community Development Coordinator Jeremy Skinner said. “As far as road widths, this is exactly what we want in our residential neighborhoods. Narrower streets, slower speeds. I like the two-way all the way. I think we could certainly look at the safety of that intersection and see if we can make it safer.”

A vote was taken, with Cindy Dobbins being the lone nay. Now, the City Council will have the final say if traffic lanes will change on Union Street.

In other business Wednesday, the commission:

• Swore in City Planner Justin Taylor as a non-voting member of the traffic safety commission. Taylor replaces Skinner, who had previously filled the seat.

• Approved a resolution adopting a “Complete Streets Policy” that will go on to the city’s Board of Works.

The policy is a set of guidelines that makes sure city-owned streets are planned, designed and accessible, along with including a checklist for project-planning.

“The policies are really more guidelines than they are ordinances … this makes sure we’re looking at all possible transportation needs within any region, any area within the project,” Skinner said. “It’s not a law, it’s more a policy and a guideline that we will use and the street department will use as we develop projects in the future.”

Dillon said he personally likes it and said it provides a more uniform policy.

It passed unanimously.

• Tabled again unfinished business about speeding complaints by residents on Parent Drive.

Taylor said he’s come up with some concepts and rough estimates for a possible solution to the homeowners’ problems, and that he will present those at next month’s meeting.

• Heard about a complaint made by a homeowner on Ind. 15 south of the city limits that semis use their “jake brakes” to slow down and it’s very disruptive.

“Jake brakes are a way to slow a semi down,” Warsaw Police Capt. Joel Beam said. “We have discussed this with the state before, and they will not put up ‘no jake brake’ signs on a state highway because it’s a safety device and they don’t want to eliminate the possibility of someone using a jake brake when they need to stop right now. I can appreciate the (homeowners’) concerns, because I’ve seen them turn that thing on right next to an apartment building and wake everybody up at 3 in the morning, but the state won’t do that, because it’s a state highway.”

Dobbins said when she’s on Ind. 15 entering into Silver Lake there is a no jake brakes sign posted.

“That’s illegal and it just hasn’t been caught until apparently now,” Beam said.

The next Warsaw Traffic Safety Commission meeting is 1 p.m. March 3 in City Hall.