The orange-and-white barrels soon will be gone, the detour signs taken down, and the barricades blocking the new Worthsville Road interchange removed. The wait is almost over.
The $22 million Interstate 65 interchange at Worthsville Road will open to traffic at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The exit was set to open Monday, and state and city officials gathered to mark the completion of construction. But cold weather during the weekend kept crews from being able to apply temperature-sensitive permanent pavement markings.
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Beginning at 11 a.m. today, crews will close travel lanes one at a time while pavement markings are put down, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Construction on the interchange lasted a little more than a year. The two-lane Worthsville Road bridge was demolished, and more than 15 property owners had to sell land where the on- and off-ramps are located before the diverging diamond interchange could be built.
Despite a spring and summer plagued by rainy weather that halted work on some days, the project finished on schedule as crews worked nights and weekends to ensure the interchange would be ready by Thanksgiving, said Harry Maginity, INDOT spokesman.
At Monday’s ribbon cutting, INDOT Commissioner Brandye Hendrickson, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers and other officials from the city of Greenwood were present to celebrate the completion of the interchange.
Before the interchange was built, motorists who live on the southeast side of Greenwood have been using the exit at Main Street and taking Sheek Road, a two-lane route, to Worthsville Road, which created backups at peak traffic times, such as evening rush hour.
Experts expect about 15,000 vehicles to pass through the intersection each day, and city officials anticipate traffic at the Main Street exit to decrease by as much as 40 percent.
The diverging diamond design is one of about 60 in the United States. The first diverging diamond was built in Missouri in 2009. The diverging diamond design actually eliminates about 12 types of potential accidents that are most common at traditional interchanges where motorists have to cross oncoming traffic to turn left.
“We are always looking at innovative ways to get the most safety and mobility. I anticipate more intersection designs like this moving forward,” Hendrickson said. “This really is a model for other projects. We’re really proud of it.”
Fort Wayne modified one of its exits into a diverging diamond interchange, but the Greenwood exit is the first one in the state of Indiana that was built from scratch, said Adam Burns, project manager for Crawford Murphy Tilly Engineers and Consultants, the firm that designed the project.
Residents in central Indiana can expect to see more diverging diamond interchanges. The state has already announced a diverging diamond interchange in Noblesville, Hendrickson said.
For Greenwood residents, the new interchange means less congestion at Main Street and quicker access to the interstate for those who live on the southeast side of the city, Myers said.
“This has been a process many years in the making, and I can’t say enough good about it,” Myers said. “There have been questions about the safety of this design, but it’s actually a huge plus for safety. All around it’s been a great project, and I’m excited about it.”
Officials expect motorists to need a few days to get accustomed to the design, Maginity said.
Greenwood police will monitor the interchange in the first few days and could step in if needed due to accidents or backups, but there are no plans to help direct traffic, Greenwood Police Chief John Laut said.
The state and city officials made sure Worthsville Road will have one lane in each direction opened by Wednesday for motorists to come and go between U.S. 31 and I-65, Myers said.
Work on Worthsville Road to add a lane in each direction and widen the road has been ongoing for about two years. The city spent the last week putting up signs and marking the road for lane shifts in order to have the east-west route available for motorists who will use the new interchange. The state couldn’t open the interchange until the city had Worthsville Road opened for motorists, Maginity said.
That project along Worthsville Road between I-65 and U.S. 31 should be completed by mid-2016, city engineer Mark Richards said.
Motorists shouldn’t expect delays on I-65 at the exit after today, though. The little bit of work that still needs to be done, such as putting in guardrails, can be completed while motorists use the new interchange, Maginity said.