With the city experiencing at least four major traffic congestions and several minor ones throughout a year, Brazil City Police Chief Dave Archer recently told The Brazil Times it is an issue he knows needs a solution.
"We realize there's a problem when Interstate-70 closes," Archer said. "We're out there too, living the problem right alongside our local citizens. Off duty officers, called in to work the situation, have to fight the same traffic. We know it's a problem."
Local traffic along State Road 59 and United States 40 becomes congested when an emergency situation arises on I-70 that closes one or more of the lanes of the roadway.
"When I-70 is closed because of an accident by officials, the Indiana State Police and the Clay County Sheriff's Department are busy with an investigation and trying to get the road back open as fast as possible," Archer said. "In Brazil, we have to fend for ourselves when the traffic is re-routed into our area and bottlenecks the city."
There are several plans to handle traffic congestion in Brazil during an emergency, but the police department is not always notified when the interstate has been closed.
"I'm not complaining, I know what that is like. When an officer is working an accident scene, it's not always a priority to think about traffic problems in another place," Archer said. "It would be nice to be notified, but it's understandable. There's no time for us to stop and complain or to call for help, we have to deal with the problem right then."
With an objective to move traffic quickly through the city, Archer said officers are sent out to direct traffic at intersections in congested areas while traffic lights are set to flashing mode.
"We are working with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to be able to have manual control of the lights in the future so we can set the timers to allow for better traffic control, not just on flashing. Setting the lights to flashing is both good and bad," Archer said.
"It helps move the traffic out of the area, but unfortunately it seems local residents pays the price."
However, Archer said it is very helpful when local residents, who know the roadways, drive around congested areas.
"It's very appreciated when several local motorists turn out of the backed-up traffic for an alternate route," Archer said. "Instead of 10 cars, now there is only seven. We also appreciate their patience."
Not all motorists are patient or willing to take directions, according to Archer, who said some motorists ignore officers and drive where they want.
"We've had motorists ignore an officer's directions before," he said. "It might sound strange, but many times, motorists pay better attention to a sign than a police officer."
Archer said the decision to purchase four barricades with eight magnetic signs (several of which are dual sided) came after what some considered the realization of the worst-case scenario.
In June, major flooding caused a huge traffic jam as motorists were diverted onto US 40 and through Brazil as a way to get around flooding on I-70 even though many city, county, state roads were also closed. It lasted for several days and had many people questioning why INDOT wasn't involved.
"INDOT doesn't usually get involved," Archer said. "When an emergency situation arises that closes a portion of I-70, traffic is diverted to the nearest off ramp, which is usually heads the traffic toward us. The department deals with it, but then it becomes a Catch-22. It is hard to explain to someone afterwards just how bad the situation was. They don't have a clue unless they were here to see it for themselves."