(La Porte, IN) - A system of traffic lights held up by cables is not the vision for a pedestrian friendly downtown officials are working hard to create in LaPorte.
Mayor Tom Dermody unable to stop what could be viewed as an eyesore has chosen to turn lemons into lemonade. He’s seeking ideas from the public on how the new traffic lights being installed by the Indiana Department of Transportation can be more aesthetically pleasing. “This was an agreement made before I was in office. We understand it and we’re going to make the best of it,” Dermody said.
INDOT spokesman Adam Parkhouse said new traffic signals are part of the upcoming resurfacing of Indiana 2 in the downtown. New traffic signal poles, taller and larger in diameter than the existing ones, are being installed. Eventually, new signal lights will hang from cables stretched from new poles at every downtown intersection. Traffic signals downtown are presently attached to mast arms extending out from the poles.
Parkhouse said he understands why the mayor’s office prefers a design similar to what’s in place now but a last minute change in the project would be too costly and time consuming. He said not only have materials been delivered but foundations for the new poles are already being poured. “At this point, it’s kind of late in the ball game to make a change like that,” he said.
Parkhouse said the traffic light system going up is standard to what INDOT installs on state highways. He said communities well in advance, though, are given the option of choosing a traffic light system without cables but they have to pay the difference for the upgrade.
Parkhouse said LaPorte was approached with the project about two-years ago and declined the upgrade which would have come to about $250,000. Dermody said the previous administration must have felt the money for such an improvement just wasn’t there.
Among the ideas already received by the mayor’s office include painting the poles orange and black to reflect the school colors. “We have a creative community. We’ll figure out a way,” Dermody said.
More special events and ongoing building façade improvements are just a sampling of what’s been happening to improve the downtown experience. The biggest impact, perhaps, would come from construction of a four lane bypass to reduce heavy truck traffic. Federal funding to build the estimated $100 million highway is currently being sought.
Dermody said no decisions on how to beautify the traffic lights will be made until after the project is completed. In the meantime, Dermody said ideas can be shared on the city’s Facebook page or his personal Facebook page or by contacting his cell phone at (219) 363-7293. “Over time, we’ll take a look and see what we can do,” he said.