County to evaluate intersection where teen died

County officials plan to evaluate the County Road 550N and Marr Road intersection after a 17-year-old driver was killed in a March 24 accident there.

Keegan L. Phillips, 17, of Columbus, was driving on County Road 550N at about 11:50 p.m. when he stopped for the stop sign at the Marr Road intersection and then pulled into the path of an oncoming car, investigators said.

Phillips died at the scene, and three of his friends, all with Columbus East High School connections, were seriously injured, investigators said.

The intersection is on one of the busiest sections of road in the county, said Danny Hollander, county engineer. Including the fatal accident in which Phillips died, there have already been three accidents at that intersection since the beginning of the year, said Dave Steinkoenig, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department road commander.

The traffic traveling north and south on Marr Road does not stop at the intersection with 550N, forcing drivers turning from 550N to wedge into whatever openings are available, Hollander said. The attempts by drivers to turn on Marr Road with a lot of traffic results in accidents like the one that resulted in Phillips’ death, Hollander said.

Bartholomew County Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz asked that the intersection be studied after county council president Bill Lentz said he had concerns about it at the commissioners’ March 28 meeting.

“I’ve probably swerved into cornfields there five or six times over the years,” Lentz said of the intersection.

Others have raised concerns about the section of Marr Road where the accident happened, Hollander said. Employees at Columbus Silgas, on Marr Road about five minutes west of the intersection on 550N, have reported safety concerns about traffic there.

Several safety improvements have been suggested by drivers, from adding police patrols to installing a stoplight, Hollander said. Until more systematic study of the road is conducted, all of those options are on the table, Hollander said.

However, there are some complications to making changes at the intersection, he said.

The county highway department does not control any of the stoplights in Bartholomew County, Hollander said. While there are stoplights at intersections on various county roads, these are all along state highways and controlled by the Indiana Department of Transportation, he said.

Installing a single stoplight on a county road would be an entirely new endeavor for the county engineering department, Hollander said. There are also long-term road planning considerations involved in interrupting traffic on a busy road, he said.

Hollander said he will gather data about the intersection to present to the county commissioners, along with recommendations to improve safety there.

The first round of the study should be complete within two to three weeks, he said.