With about a month to go before a new interchange opens in Greenwood, city and state officials and residents aren’t quite sure what to expect once motorists are able to use the new exit off Interstate 65.
Within less than a mile of the new interchange are two schools, six neighborhoods with residents used to light traffic and quiet nights and hundreds of acres of farmland that could see commercial development.
But changes are coming.
Once the Worthsville Road interchange is open, the road will get traffic heading to downtown Greenwood, New Whiteland and the Center Grove area. A gas station — one of the largest of its brand in the state — will open within the next six months. It’s the first commercial development since the interchange was announced nearly three years ago. Developers proposed building a 300-unit apartment complex nearby but were turned down by the city.
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By Thanksgiving, crews will finish work on a new diverging diamond interchange off I-65, leading to a widened Worthsville Road. The city still needs to finish work on a parking lot near a new trailhead and green space, but portions of the widened road will be open all the way to U.S. 31 by the time the interchange opens, Greenwood city engineer Mark Richards said.
Police, school administrators and city officials will closely watch to be sure that motorists follow the rules and that residents can safely cross the street, especially during the first few months after the exit opens.
Residents will watch for fast vehicles, police officers will assist with student drop-off and pickup at the schools, and Clark-Pleasant will monitor the volume of traffic at the nearby middle school and intermediate school, which will be converted to an elementary school next year.
For now, they think they have some time before any changes will be needed.
Greenwood Police Department Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth said he does not expect Worthsville Road to become busy for the first month or two after the interchange opens. When the County Line Road exit opened in 1998, residents were not used to getting off there, so it wasn’t busy like it is now, he said.
But parents and nearby residents have expressed concerns about the added traffic coming to their area. And since the road has been closed for more than a year, some have never lived in the area without road closures and construction nearby.
The state expects I-65 to get busier once the exit is open because drivers who typically use U.S. 31 might choose to use I-65 once the interchange is open, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Harry Maginity said. Officials also hope motorists will face less congestion on Main Street, Maginity said.
Residents who live near Worthsville Road have said they plan to use the interchange frequently, even if they aren’t excited about added traffic.
“It’s a pro and a con for me. I hate that (the interchange) is going to be there just because of the increase of traffic, but I drive to Shelbyville every day, so it also will help,” Central Park resident Lauren Sipes said. “I’m nervous but excited at the same time.”
Southlake resident Christina Gantt said her husband plans to use the interchange to get to work. But she said she is waiting to see how busy Worthsville Road will be, especially at the start and end of each school day.
For now, students who might walk to nearby schools will have a crosswalk at Sheek and Worthsville roads, where crosswalks will be incorporated into the roundabout, Richards said. Motorists will be forced to drive slower in the roundabout than on Sheek Road or Worthsville Road, so that is the safest place for people to cross, he said.
At this point, the school district does not plan to hire any crossing guards, Clark-Pleasant Superintendent Patrick Spray said.
School officials have not been focused on students walking to school because few do now, Spray said. For example, most fifth- and sixth-grade students do not walk to the intermediate school now, he said, so he does not anticipate younger students walking to the elementary school next year.
School officials are waiting to see what the traffic will really be like before they make any significant adjustments, director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said.
If traffic does become an issue for students and additional crosswalks are needed, the school district would need to request any new crosswalks through the Greenwood Board of Public Works, Richards said.