During rush hour, a Greenwood commuter knows she will have to wait.
First, Debbie Brown waits for an opening in the line of cars blocking her office entrance on Fry Road. Then she will have to sit through at least two light cycles — sometimes more — before she can turn onto State Road 135 to head home.
And during the holidays, Brown knows it will be worse with shoppers coming from Greenwood Park Mall and other businesses on U.S. 31, so she has created her own route through the mess. Instead of waiting to try to get into the left-turn lane, Brown crosses State Road 135, circles around the Sable Ridge subdivision and makes a right turn to head south on State Road 135, she said.
About 10,000 vehicles drive through the intersection of State Road 135 and Fry Road every day, and city officials know about the daily backups they face. Their hope is that a second turn lane will help.
The city already owns enough land to widen the intersection, so the project could happen in about 18 months at a reasonable cost, according to Greenwood director of community development services and city engineer Mark Richards.
“It’s a project we think could be done quickly and rather inexpensively,” Richards said.
By not having to buy land for the project, the city saves time and money. Officials estimate the work could cost $300,000 to $400,000 and could come from the city’s tax-increment financing, or TIF, district, which sets aside tax dollars from certain businesses for infrastructure and economic development projects. The intersection is included in the area where the city is allowed to use those tax funds, and roads are one of the allowed uses for that money.
Greenwood is considering multiple projects in the Fry Road area in the next few years. This year, Greenwood will replace stormwater pipe and add a walking path near U.S. 31. And the city has plans to use TIF money to extend walking paths to nearby parks and north to County Line Road.
Richards said the city originally intended to use TIF funds to widen the road to four lanes near State Road 135, similar to Fry Road between U.S. 31 and Madison Avenue, but the project is too expensive.
The city instead is planning small projects in lieu of widening the road and hopes the traffic improvements and trails will help increase property values in the area.
“If we can focus more on some of the intersection improvements instead of rebuilding the entire Fry Road corridor, we may be able to generate the most bang for our buck,” Richards said.
The intersection is outdated to handle the amount of traffic that passes through, Richards said. Currently, westbound Fry Road has two lanes: a combo right-turn/straight lane and a left-turn lane. The left-turn lane extends about 200 feet, so it can hold a limited number of vehicles. The right lane also backs up if the person at the front is waiting to cross State Road 135, which holds up vehicles that otherwise could turn right on red.
Since most motorists are trying to turn south onto State Road 135, the second lane will allow twice as many drivers to get through a green light. Drivers who need to go straight to the subdivision across State Road 135 also would use the center lane, allowing the right lane to be used solely by drivers heading north on the highway.
The first step Greenwood will need to take is to pitch the idea to the city redevelopment commission, which decides how to spend the city’s TIF funds. If commission members approved funding for the project, the city would need to hire an engineer to design the project and coordinate with the Indiana Department of Transportation, since the work would affect a state highway, Richards said.
He said that’s likely too much work to squeeze into this year but should make the project ready to build in 2016.
Brown, who works for Smart, Kessler and Lowe law at 1648 Fry Road, has gotten relief by a change in her office hours. When her office changed its closing time to 4:30 p.m., she was able to get ahead of the end-of-day traffic jams. The main driveway to her office building is about 500 feet from the intersection and often is blocked, she said.
“It would be past the driveway for sure. By getting off early, that helps out,” Brown said. “Generally I go south on 135, so I do have to wait in the turn lane on a regular day, generally two lights.”
Greenwood is considering widening the intersection of Fry Road at State Road 135 to add a new turn lane. Traffic often backs up at the intersection during rush hour. The city would need to design the project and figure out how to pay for it, but here’s what’s being talked about:
New lane: Greenwood would add a second left-turn lane for westbound traffic on Fry Road at State Road 135. The city would make the right lane right-turn only and move any vehicles that need to cross State Road 135 into Sable Ridge subdivision into a combination left/straight lane.
Estimated cost: $300,000 to $400,000. Greenwood wouldn’t need to buy new land for the project. The city could use money from the tax-increment financing district to pay for the improvement.
Timeline: The project could be built in 2016 if design starts this year. The city would need to get approval from the Indiana Department of Transportation since the intersection includes a state highway.
What else is coming: Greenwood plans to replace a stormwater pipe near U.S. 31 this year to improve drainage and build a new walking path extending about a half-mile west of the highway. The city plans to add additional trails to connect to parks and County Line Road in the future.