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Semi-trucks causing property damage across Mount Vernon

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By Rachel Christian

Mount Vernon is home to several centers of industry that help the city grow.

One side effect of that industry, however, is an increased amount of traffic from semi-trucks along residential and semi-commercial roads. These large vehicles can cause serious issues when they attempt to navigate narrow roads, sometimes even causing private and public property damage along the way.

A 2016 INDOT traffic study found that more than 14,500 vehicles pass through the intersection of Fourth Street and Tile Factory Road every day. The vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, but 18-wheelers and other trucks traveling to places like SABIC, CF Industries and other operations can cause hassles to a city still working to accommodate its growing size.

Last week, a fire hydrant at the corner of Third and Kimbell Street was struck and destroyed by a semi-truck for the third time since 2004. Large trucks aren’t supposed to navigate the tight, residential intersection, but according to Water/Wastewater Superintendent Chuck Gray, the city ordinance doesn’t always stop them from trying.

“A few years back, the city designed a route along side Arby’s that trucks traveling to the port could use in order to avoid neighborhood streets,” Gray said. “But, in cases like this, it’s obvious that this is still occurring.”

Not only is it difficult for an 18-wheeler to safely turn the corner at Kimbell and Third Street behind McDonalds, the grade of the road isn’t equipped to handle the consistently heavy weight that comes with regular truck traffic.

The fire hydrant that was destroyed was repositioned five feet further away from the street when crews installed it Wednesday. Gray hopes this preventative measure will save time and money in the future.

“They’re really going to have to go out of their way to knock it over now,” he said. “And if they do, they’re taking a telephone pole with them.”

Even though the issue was resolved quickly, the incident will end up costing the city thousands of dollars. A new hydrant costs approximately $6,000, and that figure does not include the time and labor required to install it and connect it to the water main. Since the incident was a hit-and-run case, the city is unable to fine or sue the driver or his company in order to recoup some of the losses.

Gray said he spoke with Mount Vernon Police Chief Tony Alldredge about the situation, and was told that police patrolling would be increased in the area.

But, on the other side of town in Lawrence Addition, increased police patrolling has failed to halt semi-truck property damage in the neighborhood.

Marion Powers watched with dismay Friday morning as a familiar yet infuriating scene unfolded in her front yard. For the fifth time in two years, a semi-truck driver had struck her mailbox.

Powers and her husband have suffered a host of property damage when truckers traveling down the non-commercial road realize they don’t have sufficient room to turn, and must back up into her yard in order to get out of the neighborhood.

This has left deep tire ruts in her grass, caused $2,800 worth of damage to the electric pole outside her home, flattened her flowers and demolished her mailbox on several occasions.

The couple has placed the mailbox pole in cement, but to little avail. Powers is now considering erecting a concrete railing to provide more protection, but doing so would cost more money.

The Mount Vernon homeowner said she is aware that the drivers’ GPS often instructs them to travel down her road as a shortcut, but said that knowledge provides little solace.

“It’s just frustrating,” she said. “We wanted to have a nice looking mailbox, and it’s been hit over and over again because this road is just too narrow.”

Powers said she and her husband have spent over $500 on repairs over the last two years.

City Councilmember Mark Clements has resided at his home in Lawrence Addition for 11 years, and said he is well aware of the truck issues plaguing the area.

He even pulled over two truckers last month after he spotted them driving through the neighborhood.

“I spoke with them, and let them know they really can’t travel down that road,” he said. “I’m hoping they spread the word to other drivers.”

Clements thinks the increased patrolling has helped reduce traffic, but noted that finding a long-term solution may prove more difficult.

“How do you stop all GPS machines from sending truckers down those residential roads? I’m not sure,” he said. “I think that possibly adding more signs might also reduce the problem, as well as continuing to pull over these trucks and letting them know they need to find a different route to take.”