Wrecks causing traffic nightmares

Thousands of semis, commuters and travelers were late to work and for deliveries when a key route to Indianapolis was closed again.

Schools warned parents their kids would be late getting home from school Tuesday. Businesses along U.S. 31 watched near-standstill traffic from Amity to Whiteland and beyond. And the talk of the day was how to avoid the backups and traffic jams with a huge section of Interstate 65 closed.

I-65 is a key trucking and commuter route into Indianapolis. On Tuesday, a 17-mile stretch of the interstate was closed after a semi struck a concrete construction barrier and a fuel tank caught fire, damaging the roadway and requiring 10 hours of cleanup and repair.

Police shut down the highway going north into Indianapolis and rerouted traffic onto U.S. 31 at the Taylorsville exit. The backups and slowdowns stretched for miles, with at least one accident between a car and truck just before the Taylorsville accident.

The shutdown was at least the third time I-65 south of Indianapolis has been closed in the past month. Whenever I-65 closes, U.S. 31 is hit with heavy traffic as trucks headed from Louisville to Indianapolis tried to continue on their route and commuters headed to Indianapolis looked for another way north.

“Backed up. Very backed up,” said Stacey Breitzke, manager of Circle K at U.S. 31 and Whiteland Road. “It’s been congested, and we are usually hit hard in the morning; but I got here at 6 a.m., and 31 has been busy ever since.”

Despite the slow pace on U.S. 31, most of the people who stopped in the store complained about traffic and the number of accidents that have happened on I-65, Breitzke said.

At Ricker’s convenience store at U.S. 31 and Worthsville Road, manager Rita Hicks said traffic had been bumper-to-bumper on the northbound side of U.S. 31 since 8 a.m.

With the additional traffic on U.S. 31, Franklin school bus drivers had to find alternative routes to get students home safely, without getting stuck in traffic.

Franklin school officials sent out alerts to parents, letting them know that children could be getting home from school later than usual due to the accident on I-65.

“Most of our routes, we don’t really have a good way to avoid the traffic,” Franklin transportation director Doug Dickinson said. “We don’t really have too many options.”

Dickinson told his bus drivers to be patient and not take any unnecessary risk to get students home on time.

As school buses left the elementary schools, the school district posted updates on Twitter and Facebook to let parents know.

Buses already were delayed this school year due to the construction on West Jefferson Street that started in late July, Dickinson said. Buses traveling from Custer Baker Intermediate School or Creekside Elementary School have had difficulty getting through the traffic signal at Westview Drive and U.S. 31, he said. For every time the traffic signal changes, letting vehicles move from Westview Drive to U.S. 31, only three or four can get through the light before they have to wait again, he said.