A thorn in the side of three business owners on Salem’s east side — and many drivers — is going away, thanks to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
After a decision in January to remove the median, INDOT said local contractors Temple and Temple would be removing the median in the spring.
And according to WSLM owner Rebecca White, spring couldn’t come fast enough.
An email on Monday, March 14 from INDOT Media Representative Harry Maginity noted the median would be removed on Tuesday.
White said about 8:30a, machinery began chewing up the median in front of the 63-year-old radio station. “It’s Outta Here,” she said on the air during the morning show, Coffee Club.
One of the guest co-hosts, Jon-David Wade Swift noted before the show went on the air that he was almost involved in an accident trying to make the forced U-turn from 56 East back to 56 West so he could enter the radio station.
“That’s just one of a hundred incidents I can tell you about from guests here at the station to delivery drivers and even my staff who have been honked at, flipped off and almost hit from traffic that didn’t seem to care that we needed to make a u-turn just to get to work,” said White.
INDOT met with City of Salem officials on Wednesday, January 6 to discuss the traffic and construction on SR56 and ordered the median removed.
City Council member Justin Green, who owns a piece of property on State Road 56 East, WSLM and Painter Machine Works all breathed a sigh of relief to know the 900 foot concrete median was going to be removed.
The median that was constructed in the middle of State Road 56 is being busted up today and will be gone in about as long as it took to build it — a matter of hours back in October 2015.
“I’m more than mildly shocked,” said Maginity. “Deputy Commissioner Tony McClellan told Temple and Temple at a meeting with the City of Salem on Wednesday to bust this up. It’s a minor miracle. This doesn’t ever happen.”
The state has received multiple complaints about the median, which was installed as a safety measure to be in place when two stoplights are added to the Coral Street and Kimball Blvd. intersections for the Wal-Mart Supercenter that is being built in the area.
INDOT listed three reasons for removing the median:
- Wal-Mart development has been delayed and potential of out-lots is uncertain—resulting in lower traffic volume than was anticipated at this time.
- The median curb was placed prior to installation of the traffic signals.
- Efforts to satisfactorily make short-term corrections to respond to residents’ and business owners concerns have not been successful.
In early October, without any warning to businesses in the area, Temple and Temple constructed a median in the middle of the State Road 56 Reconstruction project.
“For 60-plus years, people have drove to WSLM one way – down State Road 56 and turned into the drive way. In less than 24 hours, all that changed,” White said.
White said INDOT admitted they were supposed to have notified local businesses but did not. “After the fact, they apologized for not letting us know. The first time we knew about it was watching Temple and Temple outside pouring the concrete.”
The median affected the traffic flow in the area, causing traffic to WSLM and Painter’s Machine Works customers and visitors to have to proceed down East 56 to Jim Day Road and turn around and come back on the other side of the median and turn into the businesses.
William Painter had pointed out during an INDOT visit in late October that he receives deliveries from semi-tractor trailers that come in from the bypass or I-65 in Scottsburg.
White pointed out that trucks can turn into the Northside of the street, but can’t easily turn out to go back to I-65 or to the bypass.
“They’re going to have to go towards Salem and then find a place to come back to I-65 or the bypass. That’s probably going to be too much driving around and the trucker is going to go down around the square and down 60 – which defeats the purpose of the bypass.”
White said the median has been hard to get used to.
“I’ve made a left turn off 56 into WSLM for several years and now I have to take another 2-3 minutes to get to work each morning,” said White. “It’s a huge inconvenience. And guests and customers coming here have tried to figure out how to get into the radio station and some have just left. FedEx didn’t deliver a package here for two weeks before Christmas and listed the package as “undeliverable” because they couldn’t figure how to get in here.”
As a proposed fix, a U-turn lane was proposed and constructed in December to help local traffic navigate from one side of the median to the other — but the U-turn lane did not allow enough room for a successful turn.
And a U-turn lane to move from the North to South side of the road was never added.
“There wasn’t a vehicle made by any manufacturer that could have turned left and then turned back into an 8’foot lane,” said White. “I had to make the turn, stop and back up and then continue turning left and was many times over into the entrance to the church and trailer park area which was another lane and a half from the U-turn.”
According to Maginity, an additional lane running between Coral Street and Jim Day Road was going to be added but Wal-Mart did not want to pay to add additional lanes of traffic for the U-turn lane.
Green said development on the North Side of 56 – on his property, WSLM and Payntor’s Machine Words, could require a return of the median in the future.
He also said there were issues with aligning the four-way stops at Kimball Blvd. and Coral Street.
“They are trying to realign Kimball Blvd. It needs to go more to the east than it is supposed to. Which crowds’ part of the first lot, crowds the poles, etc. Nothing is lining up the way it was supposed to,” Green said.
Kimball Blvd. is located more to the east than the entrance to the Twin House Apartments on the North Side.
To make that completely parallel, the road would need to be cut through the former Bill Stickles property on the corner.
“You go down to Coral and look at the [proposed] stoplight,” said Green. “They were going to have to put in a new lane of pavement in order to make the U-turn work. To make the extra turn lane and make the intersection work, it’s become too expensive and it doesn’t line up. So it’s easier to do away with the median and not spend any more money. It’s basically a dollars and sense issue. “
Green also added that timing was a big issue as well. “Here’s my beef again. It’s January … and it should have been addressed and taken care of back in the fall. The project is finished and they’re making these modifications.”
“It still is the satisfaction that we made our point,” said Green. “I was as big as cheerleader as you were. I knew to bide my time. I didn’t see this coming out of [the] meeting [last week].”
TIMELINE OF MEDIAN PLACEMENT
- Salem Wal-Mart development asked for two signals plus a right in/right out drive to be placed on S.R. 56.
- The signal locations are at existing Kimball Drive and a new drive east of Coral Street, spacing of approximately 900 feet. INDOT standard for signal spacing is 2000 feet or more.
- The east end signal was allowed as provisional with the ability for INDOT to remove after 6 months if the traffic volume is not warranted.
- There is a Duke easement on the west side of Kimball Drive that does not allow for alignment of Kimball Drive and Twin House Road, which also does not allow for a signal to be placed for Twin House road which serves 7 houses.
- Therefore the stop bar for Kimball Drive is in the middle of the approach for Twin House road.
- The Duke easement is for overhead power lines that cannot have a signal in proximity of it for Twin House.
- Also for the installation of Kimball signal, the road alignment is moved to the east to accommodate the strain poles.
- Coral Street has the same issue as Twin House Road in alignment with the East end signal.
- Thus the decision was made—due to all of the factors above—to place a median curb to provide safety for the property owners and the motoring public.
INDOT’s road construction project was being completed while Wal-Mart development was ongoing under permit.
The Wal-Mart developer hired INDOT’s contractor – Temple and Temple — there was coordination between the two projects. But the median curb was installed prior to signal installation—it was intended to be installed at the time signals were put in place.
- Concrete median was built in one day without any INDOT notice to local businesses.
- The developer and INDOT worked on a new set of plans that would extend the pavement to the north side approach of the east end signal.
- Plans would extend the south side combining the through and right turn lane at the intersection–allowing a dedicated U-turn lane to head back westbound.
- Because pavement has yet to be extended to the north, INDOT placed stop signs at the intersection to aid in making U-turns.
- After several meetings and much consideration—responding to concerns of property owners and Salem police—INDOT has determined the best resolution at this time is removal of the median curb.