Plan commission receives transportation suggestions

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

JASPER — The Jasper Plan Commission received a multimodal transportation plan presentation at a Wednesday meeting that outlined potential projects to improve transportation over the next 20 years.

The presentation, which was given by Lochmueller Group, had been in the works for about a year.

Cheryl Sharp, project manager, said in the presentation that the group identified five key goals for transportation in Jasper: safety; mobility, or the ability to move around the city efficiently; reliability, or ensuring that the road systems are well-maintained; livability, or creating a healthy community environment for residents; and connectivity, or connecting neighborhoods to businesses and schools.

The presentation was created after looking at several city analyses, such as a crash analysis from the Jasper Police Department, and traffic impact studies, public surveys, open houses and the Impact Jasper Comprehensive Plan.

For motorized recommendations, the group made several suggestions for intersection improvements, converting one-way roads to two-way and creating new roads in the city.

Sharp said the group could not comment on matters regarding the Mid-States Corridor but rather focused on alternatives for if it does not pass.

“If Mid-States didn’t happen, we still need to make sure that [U.S.] 231, which would still remain your main artery through town, still works efficiently,” Sharp said.

One of the high priority recommendations the group made was to widen Mill Street from 15th to 36th streets to accommodate more trucks. Another recommendation was to extend 15th Street to State Road 56. The group also suggested converting the 36th and St. Charles street intersection to a roundabout to ease traffic and prevent dangerous accidents.

Sharp did not go into detail about each specific recommendation at the meeting, but the plan commission will receive a more detailed presentation to review.

The group also made non-motorized recommendations, which included adding more paths for bikes and pedestrians that are completely separated from the road to ensure safety.

“If people are too stressed to bicycle on a road … you’re not really going to get ridership,” Katy Shackelford, who assisted with the presentation, said.

Right now, Jasper has about 10 miles of existing trail facilities, Shackelford said. With new improvement suggestions, the city could have nearly 40 miles of trails in 20 years.

About one in every four people in Jasper live a quarter-mile or less from a “high quality facility," Schackelford said. The group suggested additions to one day make that possible for three in every four people.

“Typically, the average person is comfortable walking to a destination that is 5 minutes away or less,” she said.

The group also presented potential methods to fund these improvements over the next two decades. Resources such as the local road and street fund and the motor vehicle highway account are exclusively dedicated to infrastructure that could be used. Resources such as bonds, the TIF district and riverboat fund could be used, as well.

Additionally, Indiana passed a motor fuel tax increase in 2017 that has left Jasper with excess funds in recent years that could be used for road maintenance.

However, Schackelford acknowledged that many of the projects are going to be difficult to fund, which is why the presentation covers the span of 20 years.

“There are some high priority projects that are low cost, and those may be some of your quick wins that you get done early in the process to keep the momentum of this plan up,” she said. “But also know that saving up for those major improvement projects are going to be long-term initiatives that see long-term results.”

The plan commission will review the presentation over the next month and will likely discuss it further at the next meeting.

“Again this is not a two-year deal, we’re looking 20, 25 years out into the future and with the uncertainty of the Mid-States Corridor,” Commission President Paul Lorey said. “But ideally, we’ll review this information and then make a recommendation to the city council and will basically add another chapter to the comprehensive plan.”

The commission also:

• Approved a proposed plat for TAS Partners LLC, as petitioner, and Mike and Pat Hochgesang, as owners, for a cultivated field located east of Legacy Living of Jasper.




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