JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — Many Jefferson Township residents are opposed to a proposal to close C.R. 21 north of U.S. 20.
Elkhart County commissioners Mike Yoder, Frank Lucchese and Terry Rodino met with dozens of residents on Tuesday evening, June 18, at the Jefferson Township Fire Department, 58518 S.R. 15, to hear their opinions on the proposed project.
So many residents attended the meeting, that it had to be moved from the station’s meeting room to the truck bay.
Yoder explained that the board has not made a formal request to close the road.
In the process of the U.S. 20 expansion project, INDOT approached the county and asked if officials had any interest in closing the road and creating a cul-de-sac.
Yoder said the county commissioners will most likely make a decision on the matter at its meeting on Monday, June 24.
“This is a very, very, very, very serious decision for us,” he said.
He asked all those opposed to the idea to raise their hands. Nearly everyone in the room raised a hand.
Only two people raised their hands in favor of closing the road.
Gregg Fore spoke on behalf of the Elcona Country Club, which is in favor of closing the road.
“This issue has been a lively debate for over 10 years,” Fore said.
He said public events held at the country club draw a large amount of traffic to the intersection in question and closing C.R. 21 and forcing drivers to take an alternate route to the club would be safer for everyone on the road.
Many residents had already voiced concerns that closing the intersection would make it more difficult for fire trucks and ambulances to reach homes north of U.S. 20.
Yoder said the cul-de-sac would have a “crash gate” to allow emergency responders to access C.R. 21 from U.S. 20 so they would not be forced to take a longer alternate route.
Even with this assurance, Jefferson Township Fire Chief Doug Weldy said his department is “dead set against it.”
Another big concern was the potential increase in traffic on C.R. 23 and C.R. 19 if vehicles had to avoid C.R. 21.
C.R. 23 is already a dangerous road with many hills and low visibility, they argued. With more vehicles taking that route, it would be worse.
“Any increase (in traffic on C.R. 23) is going to be awful,” one resident said.
“I live on C.R. 23,” said Joan Cohen. “When C.R. 15 was closed temporarily we lost many pets and almost lost a few children. One of those kids came real close.”
“If you close 21, you’re going to create fatalities on 19 and 23, period,” said another resident.
“All three roads (C.R. 19, 21 and 23) present a danger,” said another resident. “No matter what decision may come next week, the county needs to take a look at those roads.”
While some proponents of the closure have argued that making left turns at the C.R. 21/U.S. 20 intersection is hazardous, several residents suggested installing a traffic light to allow drivers time to make the turn.
“What about a stop light?” one man asked. “I think that’s the best solution. It will solve everyone’s problem and we can all go home.”
“I’ll vote for that,” another man said as many attendees began to applaud.
Yoder said the county would look into it, but the final decision on a traffic light would rest with the INDOT.
If the board decides to pursue the closure of C.R. 21, there will be more opportunities for public comment, Yoder said.