State and county officials agree something needs to be done to improve pedestrian safety on Second Street in front of the Bartholomew County Jail.
While the Indiana Department of Transportation and the county have joint jurisdiction over the crosswalk east of Franklin Street, both are asking the city of Columbus to lend a hand.
While the state highway department is willing to install striping and flashers at the crossing, the city will be asked to install handicap-accessible curb ramps on both ends of the crosswalk, Bartholomew County commissioner Carl Lienhoop said.
State highway officials agree the ideal time for putting in those handicap-accessible curb ramps would have been last year, when INDOT installed 89 ramps along or near Second and Third streets, INDOT engineer Hillary Louther told county commissioners.
However, there was not a consensus between the state and county at that time about proposed upgrades to the crossing, Louther said.
By the time an agreement was reached, the installation crews were finished and the contract was completed, INDOT technical services director Rebecca Gross said.
Although those ramps were installed in the downtown area, both streets are under the state’s jurisdiction because they are also designated Indiana highways.
The county’s involvement is necessary because the crossing itself primarily serves county employees and visitors to the county jail.
But it’s the city of Columbus that has the necessary equipment and knowledge to install the ramps, something seldom needed along state highways and rural roads, Gross said.
“We can’t improve the crosswalk (with striping and flashers) until we have curb ramps because it would defy the city’s ADA policy,” Gross told the commissioners.
Last year’s resistance came primarily from both state and city officials who wanted a traditional crossing next to either Franklin or Lafayette Street, commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said.
“But if that happens, they will still cross in the middle of the block to get to the jail lobby,” Kleinhenz said. “So if we put it on the corner, we’ll just waste our money.”
If the improvements are made, the crosswalk will be similar to those on Brown and Jackson streets, between Fifth and Eighth streets, that were installed for employees of the corporate headquarters of Cummins Inc.
No statistics regarding the number or severity of accidents on Second Street in front of the Bartholomew County Jail were released when safety issues at the crossing were recently discussed.
Three of the most recent accidents on Second Street in front of the jail involved a car or truck stopping for pedestrians that is rear-ended by another vehicle. INDOT officials say flashers would give eastbound drivers more advance warning.