Imagine you’re trying to make that opening bell, signaling the beginning of class and you’re standing at the side of a crosswalk.
In front of you are eight lanes of highway. You get the green light to proceed. But will all of those cars and trucks stop at the red light?
A local activist, William Payne, has started a petition to get an overpass built near Bosse High School.
If you would like to sign the petition, go to click here.
Brad Byrd: Welcome to In-Depth. Imagine you’re trying to make that opening bell, signaling the beginning of class and you’re standing at the side of a crosswalk. In front of you are eight lanes of highway. You get the green light to proceed. But will all of those cars and trucks stop at the red light? It has been the daily routine over the decades for thousands of people, many of them students at Bosse High School. The intersection is US Highway 41 and Washington Avenue.
Now, a local activist has started a change.org petition aimed at the state lawmakers, highway officials and local leaders. That activist is Reverend William Payne of Memorial Baptist Church. His message: get the overpass built. Rev. Payne thank you for joining us tonight.
Several other EVSC schools near major highways do have overpass walkways and they have for decades. Why not Bosse?
Rev. William Payne: That is the question. That’s the question we’ve been getting our local officials to answer. But what a lot of people in our city don’t realize is that Bosse was there before Highway 41. So, to ask the question, why do we not have an overpass, but we have two prominent schools within that area that would have to use that overpass to get back and forth to school, meaning Bosse High School as well as Washington Middle School, which is down the street. For years we have been trying to get this overpass built and we’ve been asking our local officials – why do we not have a local overpass right here for these kids?
Brad Byrd: And you were a Bosse student, you crossed that highway many times. And when you talk about eight lanes, we’re talking the travel lanes, the turn lanes and the off lanes and also those lanes they give drivers the opportunity to turn smoothly on 41, so that’s eight times where you might come in contact with a vehicle. Specifically, what are you asking for in this petition?
Rev. William Payne: We are asking that the local officials as well as INDOT find a way to put in an overpass, so the kids don’t have to play dodge the car to get to school. It’s been a community issue for us, for a long time. I know our Pastor Rev. Brooks had an open conversation and we asked the community what their biggest concern and everybody said it’s the safety of their kids on HWY 41 and Washington Ave. So, it was something we addressed, and we asked the community and that’s the reason it’s been such a support for what we’re doing right now with this overpass.
Brad Byrd: In the past few years the state of Indiana, INDOT, has said putting up an overpass on 41, near Bosse is not warranted. I don’t know what traffic counts they took, but let’s roll some video. We’ve seen this, but it kind of illustrates what students have to kind of deal with. This is at Washington as students are coming up to 41 and that’s the island there in the middle, and they did put up those walk/wait signs a few years ago. But what’s your response to that?
Rev. William Payne: They don’t have kids that go to Bosse. So, how can you tell the mother whose child has been hit by a car or whose child has been involved in an accident and loss of life that it’s not warranted there. If you look at the traffic that goes through that area, like you said it’s eight lanes, there’s eight opportunities. The busiest being in the morning time when kids are going to school. There’s been several occasions where semi-trucks just don’t stop, and they go through those red lights. For us as a community, I think we have come to a point where we want to make sure our kids are being educated properly and being taken care of in a safe manner. We’ve seen a lot of school shootings and we’ve seen a lot of things in the school itself. So, safety has been a major concern for parents as it pertains to their kids getting back and forth to school. They are responsible for our kids.
Brad Byrd: And the actual construction of this overpass would obviously be a major undertaking. The state has said if that overpass is built over there at Washington and 41, it could obstruct the view of traffic signals.
Rev. William Payne: I believe traffic lights could be moved – I believe those lights could be constructed to where they’re visible to all traffic. I just don’t think that they’re making it a concern of theirs right now to put an overpass there now.
Brad Byrd: Moving it several hundred feet the state says that students would probably not use it – people would probably not use it, but that would get it away from that intersection, still with Bosse High School in sight and Washington Avenue in sight – what do you say to that argument?
Rev. William Payne: They haven’t given us an option. How would they know it wouldn’t be utilized? For us in the community, the bike trail wouldn’t be utilized.
Brad Byrd: It’s going to cost money and I know you’ve talked to state lawmakers, but what are local leaders telling you?
Rev. William Payne: Local leaders are telling us that it’s not so much the funding of the overpass, as it is the structural putting it together and having that overpass built at that particular location.
Brad Byrd: But who are they citing for that?
Rev. William Payne: That came from Steve Schaefer, the Deputy Mayor, who has an open dialogue with me, I talk to Steve quite often. And he went on record and said it’s really not the funding, it’s the structure. And that’s what INDOTs is, I just don’t think that they have really looked at it. About 15 years ago, there was a plan for them to put an overpass there, and it got scrapped. So, what we did is if you go to my Facebook page, we put a petition there – we had people sign it back in 1979 – this is how long this has been going on.
Brad Byrd: Now, change.org, you’re going through that now. Basically, where will that go and how many signatures do you have now?
Rev. William Payne: Right now, we have a little over 1,500 signatures. It will go to the Mayor’s Office, it will go to City Council and we are prepared to take it to the Statehouse with Ryan Hatfield. And this is not just something we are planning on sending to local lawmakers and state lawmakers and leaving it there. We are prepared, like I told Mr. Schaefer, we are prepared for civil disobedience, if necessary. Because this is how serious we are about having this overpass.
Brad Byrd: What would that be?
Rev. William Payne: We have several different options we have, we would hate to go out there and stop traffic as a community, it’s getting to a point where we want our voices to be heard and that’s why we started the petition. Like you said, this can has been kicked up the road for 20 years. And we’re tired of being told something is going to be done. We are looking for some action. We’re looking something that will build our community up. And that will help our community and our kids.
Brad Byrd: Have you extended an invitation to an INDOT rep to come out and meet with you at that intersection?
Rev. William Payne: we have not. We wanted to set up a town hall meeting with the mayor, an INDOT rep, and discuss how we can have this overpass built. That’s our next plan of action after the petition to have an INDOT rep. come sit with us and the community and explain to us why this is such a difficult process.
Brad Byrd: Alright Rev. William Payne, a local activist, thank you for joining us tonight.
(This story was originally published on March 20, 2019)