ELKHART — More than two years after a crash at the intersection of Johnson Street and Modrell Boulevard took out a fire hydrant, pouring 1.6 million gallons of water into a front yard, residents continue to report that crashes happen regularly and that the city has taken little action.
After several residents attended a recent Elkhart City Council meeting, several City Council members spoke before the privilege-of-the-floor section of the meeting. But that did not impress Nicole Reed, who lives near the intersection.
“You guys have known about this, so please don’t sit up here and act like this is suddenly, you’re doing something about it, because we’ve been begging you guys for months – years,” she said.
She said it is time to go beyond talking.
“Do something before somebody gets killed,” Reed said.
She told the council there are many children who walk to and from school in the neighborhood. During the winter, they often have to walk when it is dark, she said.
Several residents in the neighborhood say drivers often reach speeds that are way beyond the limit. Michael Baker, whose house is on the property where a car took out the fire hydrant, said part of the reason for this is that Johnson Street goes from two to one northbound lane one block south of Modrell. That, he says, makes impatient drivers speed up.
Baker and his wife have also argued that the stop signs on Modrell are not visible enough, causing distracted drivers to go through them frequently. They have previously asked the city to install a solar-powered stop sign that lights up.
That has not happened, and residents are now asking the city to create a cul-de-sac on Modrell by Johnson Street so that people cannot cut through the neighborhood from nearby Cassopolis Street. A cul-de-sac, Reed said, would force drivers to go on Bristol Street, which is better equipped for large amounts of traffic.
Dickerson, before letting the public speak, asked Mayor Tim Neese’s chief of staff, Bradley Tracy, to pull the accident history at the intersection.
“The reason I bring this up is, I have seen Facebook posts over the last month of countless accidents there, and it’s odd how many there have been,” he said.
Dickerson, Richard Shively, R-1, and Brian Thomas, R-2, all supported at least looking into creating a cul-de-sac. As a result of the Tuesday municipal election, both Dickerson and Shively will no longer be on the council come January.
David Henke, R-3, did not oppose creating a cul-de-sac but said action needs to be taken now, since the weather might not permit the Street Department to work on roads during the cold months.
“We need something in there while we’re planning for the longer,” he said. “There’s been two accidents in three days in that same intersection.”
Brent Curry, D-5, said Elkhart drivers have become worse. He suggested installing rumble streets in the roads, since that would help get the attention of distracted drivers that might be on their phones. He also pointed out that South Bend recently made it illegal for drivers to handle their phones unless their vehicle is in park.
“That’s going to be interesting to see how that works,” he said.
Tracy agreed to get the data, saying that the city has done a traffic study in the area.
Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus