A family has been advocating for wider roads and shoulders, stoplights and rumble strips for motorists along State Road 135, and at least one of the safety features is planned for this summer.
Lance Fischer grew up on State Road 135 in the southern part of the county and is used to hearing screeching tires and watching as cars barely dodged each other when driving on the two-lane road. Since 2004, about a dozen people have died along State Road 135 between State Road 44 and Trafalgar, where the Fischers live.
He and his father, Ed Fischer, have been vocal about making State Road 135 safer for motorists. For more than a year, the Fischers have written to elected officials, talked to local government and written complaints to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
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The Fischers and 10,000 other motorists who use the highway can breathe a slight sigh of relief: by fall 2016, rumble strips along the center line of State Road 135 will be installed on more than 14 miles of road between Morgantown and Bargersville.
The state is installing a new type of rumble strips that have only been tested in the Fort Wayne area and Michigan, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesperson Harry Maginity said. The strips are quieter for residents who live nearby but provide the same jolt to motorists who have crossed the line, Maginity said.
Although the rumble strips are a welcome addition to State Road 135, the Fischers want more.
What they want is a wider, four-lane road with widened shoulders so cars have somewhere to go if another driver crosses the center line, Lance Fischer said. They also want stoplights to be installed at busy intersections, such as County Road 300 South.
When someone slams on their brakes or needs to pass a car, there’s nowhere for vehicles to go and nothing to slow them down.
“There is absolutely nowhere for people to go on those shoulders,” Lance Fischer said.
And if Interstate 69 is built along State Road 37, Fischer is concerned that construction detours will bring more motorists to State Road 135, which isn’t equipped to handle the heavier traffic, he said.
Lance Fischer reached out to State Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood) and State Rep. John Price (R-Greenwood) about the dangers on State Road 135. Motorists are able to pass one another near Lance Fischer’s house, but if they don’t drive around the other vehicle right away, they may not make it and hit another car, Lance Fischer said.
Waltz didn’t have to be convinced of the dangerous road, he said. He has driven along State Road 135 from Indianapolis to Morgan County and Lawrence County about 100 times in the past year, he said. And on multiple occasions, he has felt nervous when going up and down hills and seeing cars edge by his vehicle, he said. Drivers can easily cross the center line of the road without realizing it, Waltz said.
“Clearly, it’s a dangerous stretch of road,” Waltz said. “It’s our job as legislators to solve these problems if we can.”
Waltz called the legislative liaison for the Indiana Department of Transportation, who said the department would look into installing additional safety measures. What the state found was that the increased traffic count along State Road 135 and the number of over-the-center-line accidents was high, and something had to be done, Waltz said.
The state had already considered installing rumble strips on State Road 135 since August 2014 but did not have a set date for when the project would start, Maginity said. With the extra nudge from Waltz, the Indiana Department of Transportation will be installing center line rumble strips this summer.
“Just because we’re getting rumble strips, I’m not planning to stop my quest,” Lance Fischer said. “Let’s make all the safety improvements we can to State Road 135.”
He still wants to see more stoplights installed on State Road 135, especially at County Road 300 South, where businesses with bigger trucks and farming equipment frequently turn off the main road, Lance Fischer said.
He is discussing additional safety measures with Waltz and Price, he said.
Waltz agrees that stoplights are the next step. The rumble strips are a relatively inexpensive option that will take less than a week to install for immediate safety improvements, while adding stoplights would be a more costly, long-term solution, Waltz said.