If you drive through Merrillville, you have experienced our traffic woes at various times of the day. Heavy morning work traffic as well as a lunchtime rush, and again between 4 and 6 p.m. as workers get off for the day. At least that’s how it used to be. Merrillville traffic now seems constant throughout the day and at times stays that way until early evening when there seems to be some slow down or less traffic than earlier in the day.
And it seems like driving habits have, well, changed with motorists driving way over the posted speed limit, TEXTING while driving, talking, and holding cell phones, and not paying attention to traffic lights. Many are zooming through yellows to beat the red or often it is already red. And it seems like drivers feel that if they have been waiting at a light for the left turn lane, they have a right to go even if the light has already changed.
Speeders are all over even throughout our neighborhood streets and shockingly even the streets that the speeders live on. And that is just a real head-shaker. You live here, and you speed in your own neighborhood? It is very difficult to understand.
The Town Council has been working on traffic calming devices and has installed many radar speed limit signs which have been proven to change the habits of drivers, over time. Study after study demonstrates that drivers respond to speed feedback by slowing down and driving more safely. They are not the answer, only one tool to use. We see evidence of them working and we should consider the purchase of additional signs soon.
We are in the process of installing speed humps in various neighborhoods. These are again designed to ‘calm’ traffic and make drivers slow down to maneuver over the humps. They are temporarily installed and must be removed during the winter months to allow snowplows to clear snow-covered streets. Again, not the answer, but another tool to use.
We all see that better street configurations, properly timed traffic signals, and right-turn lanes can assist. The town has placed stop signs here and there, but these signs are not intended to use to slow down traffic and some are placed to appease residents rather than based on real traffic studies. So, what do we do?
Our traffic woes need more than a patchy approach to calm traffic. We hear how drivers may not like roundabouts, but they seem to be working in many other areas, some better than others. But do we really have the tools to determine next steps?
I have been discussing this with members of the council and will be asking for a motion to do a traffic study in town that would include a plan for the Town Council to consider making improvements in our traffic flow. Like our Comprehensive Master Plan, this plan can be prioritized to allow the town to concentrate on the worse areas of town first to gain relief. Knowing where stop signs are needed, signals, turn lanes, and even street markings to help drivers could make a big difference.
I’ll ask for a motion and call for a vote on a traffic study and ask that we pay for the study utilizing the American Rescue Plan Act funding since this study and subsequent actions will assist all Merrillville residents and visitors in town. With a study in hand, we’ll be able to do a comprehensive traffic relief program throughout our great town! – Rick Bella, Ward 5 Representative, Town Council President