Whenever Franklin resident Tina Eason approaches the intersection of Centerline Road and State Road 144, she turns the radio off and rolls down her windows.
In the past two years, Eason has driven past six or seven accidents near that intersection, and she expects more unless the road is improved with a roundabout or stoplight, she said.
Twice a day, the intersection of Centerline Road and State Road 144 gets backed up with motorists and school buses heading to or from Franklin Community High School, Creekside Elementary School or Custer Baker Intermediate School, leading to concerns among teachers, students and parents about the chance of a wreck at that intersection. And more traffic likely will use that intersection with construction on U.S. 31 and Interstate 65.
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Franklin resident Lester Burton first contacted the Indiana Department of Transportation about the dangers of the intersection 15 years ago, he said. At that time, Franklin Community High School wasn’t located on Cumberland Road, but since the high school opened in 2007, the number of school buses and students using Centerline Road has increased.
Local teachers, parents and about 30 students also have been contacting the state about the intersection. Eason thinks the intersection’s two-way stop is confusing and dangerous since motorists on State Road 144 don’t need to stop, she said. When drivers are stopped on Centerline Road, confusion of who should go first when traffic has cleared can lead to wrecks, she said.
“I don’t care if it’s a traffic signal, I just think that intersection needs some attention,” Eason said.
State officials have considered upgrading the intersection, but it was not a top priority, said INDOT spokesman Harry Maginity. The intersection does not have a large traffic count nor a high number of accidents, so it was not an immediate concern, he said.
“We are watching this. This has been looked at before,” Maginity said.
But state officials want to place the intersection on their list of roads or intersections that need addressed, Maginity said. Once it’s on that list, it can be considered for scheduling on the state’s five-year comprehensive plan and could be paid for with federal funds, Maginity said.
In the past three years, the number of accidents has been increasing each year. In 2013, two accidents were reported, which increased to five crashes in 2014. Last year, sheriff’s deputies were called to eight accidents, according to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. And so far this year, three accidents have been reported at that intersection.
“I think it’s a known fact that it’s a dangerous intersection,” Burton said. “There should be an answer.”
Burton has sent 17 letters to the state, hoping for an improvement such as lowering the hill on State Road 144 heading east toward the intersection so motorists could see backed-up traffic turning onto Centerline Road, he said. INDOT officials came to his house, measured the distance from the intersection to the hill and told him there was ample time for residents to stop if they were driving the speed limit of 55 mph.
But Burton knows motorists drive faster than the speed limit, he said.
Franklin Community High School teacher Becky Hart already knew that intersection was dangerous, but an accident last month made her think about ways to make that area safer, she said.
“It came to a head for me when I witnessed an actual accident myself before any EMTs got there,” Hart said. “It was really disturbing.”
Hart wrote a letter to INDOT, and wrote about the intersection on Facebook. To her surprise, other friends of hers have been writing to the state about this intersection for years, including Eason, who started sending emails to INDOT in November 2014.
Although she was happy to know she wasn’t alone in worrying about the intersection, Hart was disheartened to find others have been reaching out for years with no resolution, she said.
Eason said she stopped sending comments to INDOT after a while, when she knew no changes would be made to the intersection, she said.
“I got lax on it because I got tired of getting their ‘We’re not going to do nothing’ response,” Eason said.
Hart talked to her students about the intersection, and they too mentioned their concerns, she said. In one of her classes, students are taught to be an agent of change through public speaking, so Hart asked her students to write letters to INDOT, as well as to the city of Franklin about their concerns for the intersection. While the intersection is not within city limits, Hart hopes Franklin officials can help convince the state, she said.
About 30 students wrote letters, and she said they noticed how every email back from INDOT had very similar writing and themes, as if the email back was a canned response.
“The students saw, too, the immediate response from INDOT — which was the exact same letter that I’ve received,” Hart said.
Each concern written into the state is responded to personally by a representative, Maginity said. But if every student or parent asked the same questions, then they could have received similar responses, he said.
Hart is working with another high school teacher who lives about a mile east of the intersection on what they could do next to bring attention to the intersection, she said.
Here’s a look at how many accidents have been reported at the intersection of Centerline Road and State Road 144 since 2013:
Year;number of accidents
2016;3 so far
SOURCE: Johnson County Sheriff’s Office