Boone County sheriff takes to Facebook to plead for traffic light after fatal crash

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BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (Aug. 19, 2015) – After a crash killed a woman in Boone County Tuesday, Boone County’s sheriff turned to Facebook to air his frustration.

Sheriff Mike Nielsen’s post has gone viral after he recounted his efforts to get a traffic light at the intersection at U.S. 52 and State Road 47. The effort has taken on new urgency as U.S. 52 currently serves as the detour route because of the I-65 northbound closure in Lafayette.

“Until you have to do a death notification to a husband at his office, and then to a teenage daughter at school with her friends; one can never imagine the heartache that it brings to everyone involved, including seasoned officers,” Nielsen wrote.

The sheriff said he’s repeatedly tried to get the Indiana Department of Transportation to put a traffic light at the intersection but said the effort continues to stall.

He said U.S. 52 has essentially turned into an interstate and believes the increase in crashes between I-65 and the Clinton County line on U.S. 52 is a direct result of the detour.

“I believe in doing the RIGHT thing for the RIGHT reason at the RIGHT time, let’s get this traffic light in; it’s the RIGHT thing to do.”

Sheriff Nielsen said the stretch of roadway has been notorious for speeding for some time.  In 2009, the county requested a traffic signal study be conducted at the intersection.  But Nielsen was unaware of the outcome of the study, or if it was conducted.

“Thirty days prior to that detour we had no accidents on US 52 from I-65 to the Clinton County Line," Nielsen said.  "Since then, I can tell you that we’ve had twelve accidents in that stretch of roadway.  And nine of those accidents were at that intersection.”

INDOT issued this statement in response to Nielsen's Facebook post:

We are deeply saddened by the loss of life. We are working non-stop and dedicating significant resources to ensure public safety.

I-65 northbound was closed for safety reasons as a result of ongoing construction. Since then, we have been working to make the unplanned detour as safe as possible. This includes:

  • Reducing the speed limit to 45 mph a half mile before the State Road 47 intersection
  • Installing temporary “your speed is” signs to reinforce the speed limit
  • Posting messages with highly visible dynamic message signs
  • Working with State Police to assign extra patrols
  • Monitoring cross-traffic on State Road 47 by our traffic engineers.

We are tremendously appreciative of the assistance from law enforcement, and the patience and understanding of the motoring public. We are working diligently to safely reopen I-65 northbound as quickly as possible.

During a Wednesday news conference, Sheriff Nielsen said he did not expect his Facebook post to go viral so quickly, receiving about 7,000 likes and shares.

“There was some frustration," Nielsen said.  "I’m not going to apologize for what I wrote.  I stand firm in what I believe.  And I stand firm in making sure that I speak for the citizens of this county.”

The Sheriff also said he was not interested in starting a turf war between Boone County and INDOT.

"Absolutely not a turf war, and I do not want that," he said.  "What we want is to basically make sure that the citizens that are traveling through this county every day, our kids that are being delivered to and from school every day, that they are safe every single day."

Nielsen said Wednesday he had spoken with INDOT officials and was hoping for some kind of resolution on the matter in the next 24 hours.  It was unclear what form that resolution would take.

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