City, county collaborate on Square safety

Photo by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Mary Ann Bettag of Jasper uses a crosswalk on the Courthouse Square in Jasper on April 8.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — Jasper’s Courthouse Square is receiving a facelift.

City leadership and Dubois County employees are working collaboratively to shape the future of the downtown hub, and representatives from both entities met last week to discuss changes that are already happening, as well as other potential fixes aimed at making the area safer for pedestrians.

“I think it’s good that we all came to the table and had this discussion,” said Cale Knies, Jasper’s director of personnel, safety and loss control. “Because anybody getting hit in a pedestrian crosswalk is a serious concern, and we’re trying to make the necessary steps so it doesn’t happen again.”   

In early march, County Clerk Amy Kippenbrock was struck by a mid-sized sedan while walking to work along a crosswalk in the Courthouse Square. Free from major injuries, she made it her mission to advocate for safety in the area following the accident.

In the weeks since, overgrown shrubs that once sat in the right of way near crosswalks have been removed to increase visibility. Downtown merchants will replace them with “things that don’t grow up, vertically as high,” Jasper Street Superintendent Jeff Theising said.

Today, pedestrian yield signs were also installed on the east side of the Square, which is home to a large, civil war monument that can create a blind spot. More changes will take shape through early May, including the repainting of parking spaces, crosswalks and merge lanes.

Representatives from both sides are looking into what more can be done. In a Monday phone interview, County Engineer Brent Wendholt said other potential changes were brainstormed at the meeting. Theising explained those ideas ranged from the “impractical to the expensive.” They included digging a tunnel underneath the road, channeling pedestrian traffic, adding raised crosswalks and more. Both men stressed that these were merely ideas and that no further action is planned at this time.

“But I think increasing sight distance and notifying the traveling public by updating the striping is a big help alone,” Wendholt said of the bush removal and line repainting.
City and county leadership will reconvene and reevaluate the situation in about a month. In the meantime, Knies said city police department officials will observe how traffic flows on the Square.

“I think what we do is we do this first phase and see if things improve,” Theising said. “And we’ll see what happens.”

Wendholt, Knies and Theising all urged drivers to slow down when entering the Square, which has a speed limit of 10 mph. City Engineer Chad Hurm told The Herald earlier this month that the junction does not operate like a roundabout, but instead uses an alternating, courtesy merge system.

“Any time somebody gets hit by a vehicle, it’s a serious thing,” Knies said Monday. “We’re trying to do what we can do to help the situation. But we always stress, as far as pedestrian and vehicle traffic, you’ve gotta be looking out for those individuals. We have the crosswalks — you’ve gotta be looking for pedestrians.”




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