BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen said frustration and passion inspired him to write a Facebook post on the office’s page Tuesday. He doesn’t regret anything he wrote, and said his passionate plea may be working in his favor.
“What we’ve done is create an interstate out of a U.S. highway,” Sheriff Nielsen said.
Lebanon resident Ania Thurman said, “The speed is reduced, but those who are not familiar with the area still go 70 miles per hour.”
For 30 days before the Interstate 65 detour rerouted traffic onto U.S. 52, Nielsen said there were no crashes from the interstate to the Clinton County line.
Since the detour, there have been 12. Nine of them have been at U.S. 52 and State Road 47. The crash from Tuesday killed a 45-year-old wife, mother and Purdue employee.
Sheriff Nielsen gave the family the death notification.
“I’ve done it so many times in my career that I don’t want to do it again. Because if it can be prevented, and I believe most accidents can be prevented, I want to make sure I do what I can,” Nielsen said.
Hours later, Nielsen took to the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, writing about his struggles getting the Indiana Department of Transportation to agree to put a stoplight at the intersection. The post got thousands of shares, and more than 4,000 likes and counting.
It also may have gotten INDOT’s attention. Nielsen spoke to the INDOT’s deputy commissioner Wednesday.
“The deputy commissioner has assured us that his goal is the same as our goal,” Nielsen said. “Which is to keep the people safe in that intersection, on U.S. 52 during this detour as well as after this detour.”
However, Nielsen said he hasn’t gotten 100 percent assurance a light — temporary or permanent — will be installed.
The county’s fight for a light didn’t start when the detour happened. Nielsen said in 2009, Boone County commissioners wrote INDOT requesting a traffic study in an effort to get a signal in the location. It’s unclear if that study was ever conducted.
Thurman uses the intersection twice a day.
“In the morning, when I actually have to cross the southbound lanes of [U.S.] 52 to get onto [SR] 47. It’s scary,” Thurman said.
Nielsen said he has no apologies about what he wrote and hopes to have a resolution from INDOT by Thursday.
“So far, analysis of the crash data we have does not indicate that a signal at this location would have prevented the crash [Tuesday] or others that have occurred since the recent measures were put in place,” INDOT said in a release. “We continue to vigorously pursue all options.”