Chesterton Tribune

INDOT to study 49 intersection in wake of fatal crash

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INDOT will conduct an investigation of the intersection of Ind. 49 and Gateway Blvd., following the fatal accident there on Tuesday, when a motorist southbound on Ind. 49 turned left against a red light and was broadsided by a second vehicle northbound on Ind. 49.

The motorist’s passenger later died of injuries sustained in the crash.

Angie Fegaras, a spokesperson for the LaPorte District of the Indiana Department of Transportation, announced the investigation on Wednesday afternoon, two hours after the Chesterton Tribune informed her of the fatal accident.

The intersection of Ind. 49 and Gateway Blvd. has long been regarded by area police officers as a hazardous one due to the placement of the southbound left-turn signal. That turn signal actually hangs over the northbound left-turn lanes east of the median, widely separated from the two southbound through signals and the right-turn signal, which all hang over their respective lanes west of the median. Thus a motorist southbound on Ind. 49 and approaching the intersection of Gateway Blvd. could potentially confuse the leftmost through signal for the left-turn signal, see that the leftmost through signal is green, and mistakenly believe that he has a green light to turn left onto eastbound Gateway Blvd.

Fegaras did not say when the investigation would be conducted. When asked by the Tribune whether INDOT would consider splitting the signals at the intersection–that is, delaying them, so that all southbound traffic could proceed while northbound traffic is held and then the reverse–Fegaras said that a discussion of possible options would have to await completion of the investigation.

Fegaras noted, however, that INDOT tends to receive complaints about split signals because they slow the flow of traffic through intersections.

Nevertheless, in July INDOT did split the signals at the intersection of U.S. Highway 20 and Waverly Road in Porter in response to accidents there, so that eastbound and westbound traffic on U.S. 20 each has a separate green light now, allowing motorists to make left turns onto Waverly Road without having to negotiate oncoming traffic.

On Wednesday Chesterton Police Chief George Nelson said that split signals at the intersection of Ind. 49 and Gateway Blvd. would help to reduce accidents there by “eliminating the human factor.”

Between Sept. 31, 2006, and Oct. 1, 2007, Nelson added, a total of 16 crashes with nine injuries has been investigated at the intersection of Ind. 49 and Gateway Blvd. by three different agencies: the CPD, the Porter County Sheriff’s Police, and the Indiana State Police. Nelson was unable immediately to say how many of those accidents involved a southbound motorist’s turning left against a red light.

Both Nelson and Lt. Dave Lohse of the CPD told the Tribune on Wednesday that they have in the past expressed their concerns to INDOT about the signal configuration at the intersection.

Tuesday’s accident occurred around 10 a.m., when Nancy Samuelson, 48, of Portage, attempted to turn left, against a red light, from southbound Ind. 49 onto eastbound Gateway Blvd., the CPD said. A SUV northbound on Ind. 49 entered the intersection on a green light and slammed into the passenger’s side of Samuelson’s car, where Virginia Wehner, 76, also of Portage, was riding. The Chesterton and Liberty Township Volunteer fire departments responded to the scene and Wehner was extricated from the front seat but she later died of her injuries at Porter Valparaiso Hospital Campus.


Posted 10/25/2007