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Proposed entrance prompts safety concerns

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Residents who live along County Road 350W worry that traffic from a proposed subdivision will add hazards to an already dangerous road.

The primary safety concern is a dip in the county road that creates a blind spot for motorists who would be entering or leaving Stonehaven subdivision.

The 25-lot proposal by developer Joel Spoon would be located on 13.46 acres at Goeller Road and County Road 350W. A street envisioned to run through the project, identified as Stonehaven Lane, would have access points on Goeller and County Road 350W.

The access point on County Road 350W, as proposed, is directly within the blind spot.

Ken DeLap, who lives on County Road 350W, said the additional traffic generated by the subdivision and the addition of another road, regardless of where it is located, could make an already dangerous road deadly.

“It’s dangerous,” DeLap said at a May 7 Columbus City Council meeting where the annexation and zoning issues for the subdivision were discussed.

In addition to the blind spot, residents have long maintained that motorists consistently drive faster than the 30 mph posted speed limit on County Road 350W.

The narrowness of the road and proximity to the homes make it difficult for motorists to avoid oncoming traffic if they are exceeding the speed limit, DeLap said.

Julie Aton, a local property owner, said residents she has talked to would prefer to lower the portion of the dip on County Road 350W that crests near the intersection with Goeller Road, eliminating the line-of-sight problem.

“That would be the best solution,” Aton said.

She said her driveway is directly across from the subdivision entrance and is within the blind spot area.

Retired Indiana State Police Officer Bill Walls, who lives on County Road 350W, said there have not been a lot of accidents on the road, but there have been a lot of close calls.

A check of accident reports showed only one accident on County Road 350W in the past year.

Maj. Todd Noblitt of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department said there are complaints from time to time about speeding on County Road 350W, as there are on other county roads.

“It may be a specific vehicle that is consistently driving recklessly or people are driving above the speed limits on a particular road,” Noblitt said. “If residents have a concern because of vehicular traffic and they contact us, we definitely try to do what we can to help get the speeds down. We try to give those areas some additional attention and determine if there is some type of an issue that can be resolved.”

Increased patrols might curtail the speeding problem for a time, but will not provide the long-term solution residents are seeking, Noblitt said.

Walls, who attended the June 3 council meeting, said that is one reason residents would like to see the improvements to County Road 350W completed before more homes are built in the area, including the Stonehaven subdivision.

Eliminating or reducing the dip and adjusting the location of the proposed new subdivision entrance would help prevent accidents and perhaps result in drivers slowing down, Walls said.

“That’s why I showed up at the meeting, but I felt like everything I had to say fell on deaf ears,” Walls said.

City officials said the concerns of residents were taken into account, but the subdivision project is expected to go forward before improvements to County Road 350W begin.

A long process

The city and county are discussing improvements to County Road 350W, but those talks are in preliminary stages, Bartholomew County Engineer Danny Hollander said.

“Starting a full road-improvement project is in the talking stages, but it takes years to get it ready,” Hollander said.

The county will take extra steps to ensure a planned repavement project on the road does not add to line-of-sight concerns.

Repaving the road, one of 31 projects in this year’s county road overlay program, will cost about $21,000 and will eliminate additional problems caused by encroaching trees.

The Bartholomew County Commissioners have asked Milestone Contractors to mill down County Road 350W at the crest of the hill by about a half-foot, so the new pavement doesn’t add to the existing sight concerns.

The tree-removal and some culvert work is expected to get underway within the next few weeks, and pavement will be replaced later this summer, Hollander said.

The Columbus City Council approved the annexation and zoning changes for the subdivision June 3, bringing the southern portion of County Road 350W into the city limits, Hollander said. The north end of the road had already been annexed, he said.

That leaves the middle portion of the road, which is about a half-mile long, as Bartholomew County’s responsibility.

Moving the proposed access point into Stonehaven slightly north, to the southern crest of the dip on County Road 350W, would mitigate the existing line-of-sight concern, Hollander said.

“That’s going to be a city issue now that it will be annexed,” he said.

City-County Planner Jeff Bergman said a condition in the Columbus Plan Commission’s preliminary approval for the development was added with that in mind.

Engineer has voice

The plan commission approved the preliminary plat for that development contingent upon the entrances being approved by the city engineer’s office, Bergman said.

That would include whether there needs to be acceleration and deceleration lanes and that the location would have adequate sight visibility for people that are pulling out onto Goeller Road and 350W, Bergman said.

Spoon said his plan all along has been to comply with the conditions identified by the city.

“There is nothing new in the concerns of the residents, and we cannot construct a new neighborhood without meeting the requirements of the city engineer,” Spoon said.

Spoon said he hopes to begin infrastructure development this summer and be ready to build the subdivision by the end of the year.

At the city’s request, Spoon introduced an alternate design plan for Stonehaven Lane, making it end on the County Road 350W side without an entrance but with a cul-de-sac instead. Subdivision residents would not be able to enter or exit on County Road 350W — but only use Goeller Road as an access point.

After seeing what that design looked like, city planning officials said an extended cul-de-sac would not be practical.

The cul-de-sac would be about 987 feet long, which exceeds the maximum length of 650 feet established by the Columbus Subdivision Control Ordinance, Bergman said.

School buses will not enter a street with a cul-de-sac, so children living in the subdivision would have to walk to Goeller Road to get on the bus.

A single entrance from Goeller Road also would not allow for the free flow of traffic through the subdivision, which the city prefers, Bergman said.

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