Drivers are cutting through parking lots, darting between lanes, chancing yellow lights and doing U-turns to avoid sitting in traffic at a busy Center Grove area intersection.
Residents and drivers already know the intersection of Smith Valley Road and State Road 135 is bad, especially during rush hour.
But lately, traffic has gotten worse. Motorists who would normally take Main Street to and from State Road 135 now use Smith Valley Road due to construction. Main Street is closed at Averitt Road while workers build a roundabout. The city expects the road to reopen by Aug. 1, Greenwood Director of Community Development Services Mark Richards said.
And remember the medians installed to help control traffic headed to the new Walmart? Those aren’t helping either, since some motorists now do U-turns to get around them.
For now, residents in nearby neighborhoods are taking alternate routes, employees of businesses along Smith Valley Road and State Road 135 are leaving earlier just to be on time, and delivery drivers at HotBox Pizza go south, just to turn around and go north, all in an attempt to avoid the intersection.
The state estimates about 36,000 vehicles pass through the intersection daily, and about 15,000 go west on Smith Valley Road — and that was before the new Walmart was open.
Residents who live near the intersection and people who work in the area know the traffic issues well. And now they have a new issue to add to the list: Drivers trying to get around new medians meant to control the traffic flow around the Walmart store that opened in May. The city required Walmart to pay $300,000 to extend a median on State Road 135, add a right-turn lane for eastbound traffic on Smith Valley Road and install a median on Smith Valley Road.
The median prevents drivers heading west on Smith Valley Road from turning left into the businesses along State Road 135. But that has actually created more problems for traffic headed west on Smith Valley Road because drivers still try to pull U-turns and left turns around the median, backing up traffic, Center Grove area resident Eric Smith said.
“I almost get in a wreck trying to turn left onto Smith Valley from Carefree,” Smith said. “And, especially with a baby in the car, it isn’t worth it.”
Smith said he has created his own route around the intersection, especially on weekends, turning into Walmart’s parking lot, cutting through to Smith Valley Road just to turn back onto State Road 135 to avoid sitting in traffic for nearly 10 minutes.
“It’s a hassle to take 135 during backed-up traffic because (other drivers) make some stupid moves,” Smith said. “Both 135 and Smith Valley make driving dangerous, though, so you have to be on top of your defensive driving.”
Delivery drivers at nearby HotBox Pizza have given up on Smith Valley Road and now go through the Home Depot and Walmart parking lots, just to take State Road 135 back up to Smith Valley Road, HotBox Pizza manager Amanda Setser said. And the median put in by Walmart makes exiting and entering the HotBox parking lot difficult, she said.
HotBox has three or four delivery drivers working each day and five drivers on Friday night. Going to neighborhoods around Averitt Road and Main Street has been a difficult task since that construction began.
“Drivers have to cut through other additions and neighborhoods just to get to houses over there. It’s not so terrible now, though, because those customers just come pick up their order,” she said.
Setser lives in Trafalgar and had to start leaving earlier to get to work during construction at Smokey Row Road and State Road 135. Now, her drivers are doing the same just to make it to work on time because of the congestion at Smith Valley Road and State Road 135, she said.
The city knows about the issues at Smith Valley Road and State Road 135, but work to fix it is at least four years away.
The city is gathering information and hiring a design firm for a $3.6 million project that would relieve traffic along Smith Valley Road. The plan is to construct two roundabouts on Smith Valley Road east and west of State Road 135. Planning should be done within the next few months, with construction beginning in 2019, Richards said. Greenwood got a federal grant to cover $1.8 million of that total cost.
The project would eliminate left turns from Smith Valley Road and make the flow of traffic more steady, Richards said.
“The intent is to eliminate left turns from Smith Valley Road onto State Road 135,” Richards said. “We are looking to make improvements there, and (research) shows this to greatly improve the operation of the intersection, at least for Smith Valley Road.”
“It’s a hassle to take 135 during backed-up traffic because (other drivers) make some stupid moves. Both 135 and Smith Valley make driving dangerous, though, so you have to be on top of your defensive driving.”
Center Grove area resident Eric Smith, on congestion at State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road