By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
A small section of roadway near Elcona County Club in Bristol is no longer on the chopping block thanks to a ruling by the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners Monday morning.
During their meeting Monday, the commissioners officially voted to deny a request by the Indiana Department of Transportation to permanently close C.R. 21 between U.S. 20 and C.R. 16 — a half mile section that cuts through the middle of Elcona Country Club.
According to the commissioners, INDOT made the initial request for closure of the roadway due to safety concerns connected to its plan to widen U.S. 20 from two to five lanes from Ind. 15 on the east to the U.S. 20 Bypass on the west. Construction for that project is set to begin later this year.
Officials with INDOT have indicated they feel the widening of U.S. 20 will make the area too dangerous for those wishing to turn onto or cross U.S. 20 from C.R. 21.
Not everyone is in favor of the closure, however. One such group is the Jefferson Township Fire Department, which recently indicated that the C.R. 21 crossing is the fastest way to get to neighborhoods northwest of the bypass. According to officials with the department, a closure of C.R. 21 would result in an increase of as much as a minute to a minute and a half in response time for emergency responders due to the need for a detour.
Due to the controversy connected to the proposed closing, the Board of Commissioners held an informal Town Hall meeting at the Jefferson Township Fire Department last week to discuss the possible closure with the public.
“It was not a formal public hearing,” said Commissioner Terry Rodino. “It was strictly a Town Hall meeting, if you will, to discuss what the neighborhood is looking at, what the people that live out there, what they’d like to see done with it.”
And according to the board, the discussion at the meeting proved very enlightening.
“The discussion with them was a very healthy discussion,” Rodino said. “All three commissioners were there, and we told the people who attended that we would make a formal decision at (Monday’s) board meeting.”
Given all the information on the subject gleaned from the Town Hall meeting, plus additional comments via email and word of mouth, the commissioners Monday indicated they’d come to the decision that leaving C.R. 21 open would be in the best interest of everyone involved.
Even so, the commissioners acknowledged that the widening of C.R. 20 could create some safety issues in the area, stating that they intend to keep an eye on the intersections in the area to see if any additional action needs to be taken in the area moving forward.
“The official opinion would be that we not entertain the idea of closing, which was the request from INDOT,” said Commissioner Mike Yoder. “But I do think we need to continue to watch all of those intersections. I think what we learned through this process was that C.R. 19 South was actually one of the more dangerous intersections. I wasn’t aware of that. I also was not aware of how many cars were actually using C.R. 21. So if nothing else, it was brought to our awareness of the traffic needs out there.”