This week, a state agency said a plan to realign Ball Road near Ligonier was too costly for the benefit it would bring to the area.
The 90-degree curve, C.R. 700W turns into Ball Road, is the site where JJ Reyes and his two teenage daughters slid off the road in their car, went into the river and drowned in February.
When we first reported of the county’s preferred option and its price tag of $1.41 million, several readers on our social media page questioned whether it was worth spending all that money on a road that’s so low traffic. Other readers offered a counterargument that what price can you put on three lives?
The state’s Local Technical Assistance Program looked at the plans, however, and determined, like some of our readers, that the cost-to-benefit ratio was too low. The state would only offer up to $575,000 toward a safety project.
So the county is heading back to the drawing board.Finding the right solution will be a continuing balance of weight possible safety measures against cost and considering the benefit. The best solution probably was the most costly — involving building new roadway from scratch to realign the road — but there are other options that are available, albeit they might be less effective.
From our experience covering local government and covering road work extensively, we know fixing the problem isn’t as easy as some of our readers had suggested to just “put up guard rails.” There are topographical issues in the area due to the road being so close to the river, as well as issues with ongoing cost for the county if drivers smash into the rails, which would then need to be repaired or replaced.
But Noble County Highway Department Engineer Zack Smith had explored other options initially, which can now be reopened and reevaluated. Residents and motorists in the area should be confident that a workable solution will eventually be enacted.
In our experience, Smith has proven to be a very analytical, data-driven and prudent administrator for the county. With some new restrictions put on by the state, we expect he will fully evaluate all possibilities and find the next best option to improve safety in the area.
After a triple fatality, the county can’t sit by idly and do nothing. Although Plan A won’t work, we’ll be looking forward to what Smith comes up with as Plan B.We’re confident that soon, some type of needed improvement will be made to avoid a future tragedy.