Bartholomew County officials look for answers for dangerous crosswalk

INDOT is looking at safety changes for the crosswalk on SR 46 at the Bartholomew County Jail. (WTHR/David MacAnally)

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WTHR) - Officials in Bartholomew County are looking for ways to make a dangerous crosswalk safer.

Between county workers and people visiting inmates, the crosswalk on State Road 46 in front of the Bartholomew County Jail can be a busy - and dangerous - one.

"Now I've got to go across again to get over to the police station,” said Lisa Zeigler, who needs to get to the Bartholomew County government buildings across busy Second St. from the public parking lot.

But she said it isn't nerves about crossing the intersection, but the wait.

"Sometimes you have to wait a long time because people don't like to stop," she said.

Even when one lane stops, the other two lanes may keep going. The sheriff said there have been more than 30 crashes in nine years at the crossing.

"She said it would be great putting a light there to be more safe," said a son translating from Spanish for his mother, Nina Rodriguez. The mother and son had just navigated the crossing close to evening commute time.

Sheriff's department employee Rudy Oliva agrees.

"Very risky,” he said of the crossing. "They don't always, for some reason, want to stop."

INDOT confirms it is looking at a solution to the hazard. It will take bids from contractors this spring, whewre one option could be the HAWK system.

Columbus already has a couple of those systems, like the one at 17th and Washington streets.

The traffic lights are dark until someone wants to cross. They push the button and the light goes into yellow flashing mode, giving cars several seconds warning. Then stoplights hanging over the street turn solid red, stopping all the lanes of traffic at the same time.

That's when you're free to safely cross, though while we crossed, a car ran the red light.

"I think the idea would be really good because a lot of people don't stop there. So I think it would be safer and we take a lot less time for people to get across the road,” said one walker.

But people doing the walking will still have to be cautious.

The city said planners will ask for contractor bids soon and open those bids in June or July. A safety system could be installed by late 2019.

INDOT told Eyewitness News the HAWK systems like the one we demonstrated can cost about $120,000.