Kokomo business owners worry road barriers will halt business

KOKOMO, Ind. (WISH) — First it was the new U.S. 31 bypass that created traffic changes in Kokomo. Now more changes are on the way. INDOT officials say the aim is to reduce crashes by eliminating left turns, but some business owners are hoping to stop the plan.

Indiana Department of Transportation calls the barriers “tuff curbs” and if the plan continues, drivers in Kokomo will be seeing them along a commonly driven four-block portion of Markland Avenue. Westbound drivers will no longer be able to turn into Markland Mall. Eastbound drivers will have to reroute to visit Waffle House and surrounding businesses or Gamestop on the other side of State Road 931.

It’s a headache business owners worry customers won’t want to deal with.

“For 18 years I’ve been able to turn out here and make a left and make it to my store to open,” Pet Supplies Plus Manager Carol Ann Williams said.

For her, coming to work is more than just a job.

“We’re family owned, so it would be me, my son and my daughter-in-law,” Williams said.

Just weeks ago, she was notified that tuff curbs would be installed on Markland Avenue from Cooper Street to the Walmart entrance. They would force drivers to back track to her business if they’re heading east.

“I’m afraid they’ll pull in somewhere else,” Williams said.

Many local drivers agree.

“You have to go all around just to go to one little spot,” David Jackson said.

“It takes twice as long to get into a business and it’s hurting the business,” Arnold Pitcher said.

“Would I risk having a crash or would I just find somewhere safer to turn into?” Cody Luepnitz said.

But Harry Maginity with the Indiana Department of Transportation says the idea is to actually make streets safer, citing about 240 crashes in the Markland Mall area over a six-year period.

“We think most of the accidents are where people are careless, someone hits their brakes and someone hits them from the rear,” Williams said.

And redirecting this traffic is nothing new to the folks who work in this area. They say the recently built bypass around Kokomo also hurt business and they worry this could be the final blow. Williams and her business neighbors say their last hope is local and state leaders halting the tuff curb installation.

“I hope it will work so that we will still be able to remain open,” Williams said.

It’s still unclear when those Kokomo and state officials will meet with INDOT, but the transportation department says it will wait to hear suggestions and input from those leaders before installing the tuff curbs.  If the project does move forward though, it won’t take long. The tuff curbs only take about five days to install.

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