Daily Journal Staff Writer
he day a major Center Grove area intersection was to reopen has come and gone, and plastic still covers the new stoplight.
Next week, thousands of shoppers will drive through a busy State Road 135 intersection, and the construction that was planned to be done by Nov. 30 likely won’t be.
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A wet fall combined with an earlier than expected snowfall has delayed multiple road construction projects throughout the county, including two major intersections along State Road 135, Worthsville Road east of Greenwood and Main Street in Franklin.
It is too cold to lay asphalt pavement, meaning that until the temperature rises, work on the projects has stalled. Officials don’t know when, or if, that work will be able to continue this year.
For motorists who have been dodging orange barrels and closures for months, that means more road closures, delays and uncertainty about when improvements will be complete.
Both state and city officials had expected to get work finished before temperatures plummeted and snow fell. But timelines for construction were pushed back due to problems with moving underground utilities and rain. So when snow fell earlier than usual this week and the high temperature dropped into the 20s, that meant the final steps needed to complete projects couldn’t be done as planned. The work is still set to be done this year, but workers will need a few warmer, drier days to get the jobs done.
Construction on new turn lanes and a stoplight at Smokey Row Road and State Road 135 was set to be done this past Saturday, but now officials hope it can be reopened by Thanksgiving, said Harry Maginity, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman.
Complications in moving underground utilities and rainy days in October and November pushed the project behind schedule. Only the east side of the intersection is complete, and the more heavily traveled west side remains closed. But the stoplight has been installed, and work has been done to install the new turn lanes.
Traffic on State Road 135 continues in both directions under a reduced, 40 mph speed limit, but drivers have not been able to turn west onto Smokey Row Road or onto State Road 135 from the west side of the intersection since Oct. 25. The east side of the intersection was closed from Oct. 8 to Oct. 25.
Road crews need a few days of dry weather with temperatures above freezing to finish the paving and apply road markings, Maginity said. The plants that provide hot asphalt mix shut down when the temperature is below 27 degrees.
That means no paving work. Temperatures are supposed to creep above 45 degrees next week, but rain could nix any progress.
Three miles north on State Road 135, workers building a new right-turn lane on Smith Valley Road at State Road 135 can’t pave the lane because the high temperatures this week are only in the 20s, Greenwood city engineer Mark Richards said.
Richards said he hopes work on the turn lane can wrap up next week. Work on the new median can’t start until the turn lane is open. Otherwise, traffic would be down to just one lane.
Next week, thousands of shoppers will head to that intersection to shop at Target or travel to other stores along State Road 135 during Black Friday sales. Having only one lane isn’t an option.
Work also can’t be finished along Worthsville Road in Greenwood. Between the railroad tracks and Interstate 65, workers need to lay asphalt before the road can be reopened to traffic for winter, Richards said. The city wants to get Worthsville Road reopened between the railroad tracks and I-65 by the end of November, but that also is being delayed due to the cold weather, he said. Greenwood expects to have four lanes open between the railroad tracks and Sheek Road and two lanes open between Sheek Road and I-65 yet this month.
“None of the paving on the road project has been completed. The only part of the Worthsville Road project that’s actually complete is the Clark-Pleasant access road,” Richards said. “They need to put down all of the asphalt, everything except the surface layer.”
Because cold weather can bring road construction to a standstill, Franklin opted to put off the last leg of construction on North Main Street until next year, instead of trying to race winter. If the city had shut down the section between the post office and U.S. 31, the city might have had to keep the road closed all winter if workers weren’t able to make enough progress, Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
“We made the decision to shut it down early in anticipation of weather like this. That project on Main Street could have run through December; and if we have another December like last year, it will be cut short. Right now I’m so glad and thankful we did decide to do that,” he said.
The top layer of asphalt on the completed sections, which was going to be done this fall, will be put on next year because of the weather, city engineer Travis Underhill said.
Where the projects stand
Intersection of State Road 135 and Smokey Row Road
- State Road 135 is being widened 1,000 yards north and south of the intersection: The work on the east side of the highway is complete, the work on the west side is incomplete.
- Left-turn lanes are being added in all four directions: These are complete except for on Smokey Row Road turning left onto State Road 135.
- A new traffic signal is being installed. Complete.
- Extensive paving is still needed on the west side of the intersection.
North Main Street in Franklin
- The city has delayed until spring construction on the last section from the post office to U.S. 31.
- A final coat of asphalt won’t be put down on the completed sections until spring.
Work at intersection of Smith Valley Road and State Road 135 in connection with the new Walmart being built
- Right-turn lane from Smith Valley Road onto State Road 135 is largely incomplete.
- Construction of median on Smith Valley Road east of State Road 135 has not begun.
Worthsville Road between U.S. 31 and a planned interchange with Interstate 65 in Greenwood
- Final asphalt can’t be put down until the weather warms up above freezing. Greenwood wants to have the section between the railroad tracks and I-65 open this winter.