In the mid-1950s, three Greenwood businessmen, all involved in transportation, envisioned a major highway running east-west across Johnson County. The county already had a major north-south road, U.S. 31; but there was no easy way to go the other direction.
They did a topographic survey and laid out a route. They pitched their idea to Gov. George Craig. Then to his successor, Harold Handley. Then to Gov. Matthew Welsh. The idea went nowhere and was dropped.
In the early 1990s, the county commissioners conducted a study of widening existing county roads into an east-west thoroughfare. The idea went nowhere and was dropped.
Then in 2002, a group from Leadership Johnson County joined with county officials to develop a detailed proposal for an east-west corridor that would run from Interstate 74 at Fairland in Shelby County to State Road 37 at Waverly. This idea didn’t die and despite a sometimes seemingly agonizingly slow progress is inching closer to reality.
The latest step is a federal grant that will help Greenwood pay to build another section of the long-planned corridor. The city will receive up to $7.5 million to widen Worthsville Road to four lanes from U.S. 31 to Averitt Road and to build a roundabout at Averitt. The city will need to spend about $4.2 million to pay for design, land and a 20 percent construction match for the project.
The widening will complete the second leg of Greenwood’s four-part plan to create a corridor between State Road 135 and Interstate 65. Finishing Worthsville Road west of U.S. 31 will complete half the route in Greenwood, but the city will still need several years and about $20 million more to complete the connection. The other sections are State Road 135 to Honey Creek Road and Honey Creek Road to Averitt Road.
The improvements to Worthsville Road west of U.S. 31 are expected to look similar to what is happening east of the highway right now. The road will be widened to four lanes and have a landscaped median.
Combined with the new I-65 interchange at Worthsville Road, planned improvements to city and county roads east of the interstate, and improvements to County Road 144, Johnson County is well on the way to completing this long-sought project.
While progress isn’t coming as quickly as many people might like, it is still worth celebrating when we reach each milestone in this journey. We congratulate local officials for their persistence and ask for continuing patience on the part of the public. The dream is one step closer to becoming reality.
An east-west route across Johnson County has been discussed for more than a half-century.
A federal grant to improve Worthsville Road west of U.S. 31 in Greenwood moves the county one step closer to realizing the dream of an east-west corridor.