Last month, the Tippecanoe County Highway Engineer and the Executive Director of the Area Plan Commission announced a plan to upgrade Klondike road west of West Lafayette. Their plan calls for a four-lane road from Lindberg Road to U.S. 52 with sidewalks and a “trail”. (Read the WLFI story here)
“It will be four lanes which will accommodate the amount of traffic that currently exists on Klondike,” Executive Director of the Tippecanoe County Area Plan Commission Sally Fehey said.
“It will also include sidewalks and a trail along the side of it,” Executive Director and engineer for the Tippecanoe County Highway Department Opal Kuhl said. “With Klondike School we have a lot of foot traffic down the edge of that roadway and there’s no where to really walk up and down there.”
I appreciate the attention they are giving this stretch of road, but I would like to suggest an alternate plan.
First, let’s note that the newly built U.S. 231 bypass, due to open later this year, is just half a mile to the east of Klondike Road, and it will offer a four-lane, divided highway around the west side of town. Any through traffic will more than likely use this route.
Also, Klondike Road in this area is busy because of all the homes and businesses, a factory, and the schools that line it. Included are two rather large mobile home parks and a duplex housing complex. Traffic is especially heavy during school drop off and pickup times, and for after school events. There is much pedestrian traffic, as the WLFI article mentions, and these folks are walking along the edge of the road.
Two is Enough
I would like to see the road remain two lanes, one in each direction – maybe with a center turn lane where needed. The lanes could be wider and in better condition than the existing road, but we don’t need more of them. Four lanes invites faster traffic, regardless of the speed limit posted. We drivers tend to drive as fast as the facilities can handle, not necessarily what the signs tell us to do. See Creasy Lane and McCarty Lane in Lafayette for streets where the average speed is always considerably higher than the posted limits.
Adding sidewalks to Klondike Road is a great idea; one that is long overdue. The convenience nature of the businesses in the area draws many children, and they should have a safer place to walk than along the gravel edge of a county road. Keep these in the plan.
Instead of the trail (not sure from the article what or where this would be), I would like to see a bicycle lane in each direction. Separated paths for bicycles do add a feeling of comfort for both riders and drivers, but in reality they raise serious safety issues at intersections. There are many driveways and side streets throughout this section of Klondike Road, and each presents a problem when drivers don’t expect cyclists to be crossing and these same cyclists think the drivers will yield to them (as if they were pedestrians).
Bike lanes will encourage a more predictable set of behaviors from all if everyone has the same rules to obey. Indiana law allows cyclists all of the privileges and responsibilities that other vehicle operators enjoy, and our infrastructure should represent this.
For one of many examples of poorly executed bike trails, visit Harrison Street on the Purdue campus. This lane crosses at least one street and some driveways, before ending abruptly at the traffic circle. I cannot figure out what the engineers expect cyclists to do when they reach the sudden end of the trail. Should they dismount and cross like a pedestrian? Maybe continue north on the sidewalk, which itself ends not much farther along? Isn’t riding on a sidewalk in West Lafayette illegal?
Finally, with all of the business traffic, residents entering and leaving their driveways, pedestrians, and other slow moving travelers, I strongly suggest that stop signs be added in two or three places along the road. These will help keep the auto speeds down and assist those attempting to enter or leave the roadway. Have you ever tried to walk across the road near the mobile home parks, exit to the left after buying a gallon of milk at the gas station, or turn into the Venetian Blind entrance at rush hour? These are not easy tasks. Stop signs will help everyone get where they wish to go slowly and safely.
What About the South Stretch?
Residents of the homes along the area of Klondike Road south of Lindberg Road should pay attention to this project as well. Once the north half is a four lane street, look for plans calling for the south section to get the same treatment. There are many more driveways long the road, and three or four entrances to subdivisions. All of the same issues I mentioned above would plague these residents as well.
Not Another Racetrack
We don’t need another bypass road in this area. The new highway will serve this role well, and we should encourage those just passing through to use it for what it was built to do – move traffic around town quickly. Instead, the residents, workers, students, and customers along this route deserve a safer way to go about their day. Let Klondike Road be the neighborhood street that this area needs.