During the five weeks since it opened, motorists have maneuvered through the new Worthsville Road interchange without street lighting to illuminate important lane markings.
The lack of lighting has made the morning and evening rush hour commutes difficult to drive, motorists said.
But this week, work has started on installing almost 20 streetlights on the Worthsville Road interchange ramps and bridge. Crews will pour concrete and work on the foundation of the first four streetlights that will brighten the interchange ramp, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Harry Maginity said.
The interchange, which took a little more than a year to construct, included lighting in its design all along, but lights weren’t planned to be installed until after it opened in November, Maginity said.
“The lighting was included in the contract. It was a part of the plans,” Maginity said. “It’s a part of the leftover work. Our priority was to get actual construction done to get the traffic flow going by the contracted finish date. The lights were planned after, so they’re working by that schedule.”
With the dark blacktop and no lights, the interchange has been a challenge to drive in the morning and evening, Greenwood resident Mike McFarland said.
The diverging diamond design is one of only two in the state, and for many who don’t use the interchange every day, it is a configuration they aren’t accustomed to. Lighting would have made navigating the interchange in the first days it was open much easier, McFarland said.
“It’s a little bit more of a challenge in the dark than a traditional ramp would have been because we don’t have many diverging diamonds, and we need the light to see the directions on the blacktop,” McFarland said. “This is a new system, and I think lighting was needed for awareness.”
The timetable to have the lights finished on the interchange has not been set, Maginity said. Crews were scheduled to begin pouring the concrete base of four mast-tower streetlights on the bridge this week, but if the ground isn’t frozen, lights can’t be installed, Maginity said.
Without the hardened, frozen ground, crews could damage the grass and soil around the interchange lanes during installation, so colder temperatures are vital to getting the work done, which is also why the lights weren’t scheduled until after the interchange opened, Maginity said.
“This is just the way the project unfolded,” Maginity said.
INDOT had two temporary service lights on the site for the time being to help motorists when it was dark, but those lights haven’t been working every night and morning, McFarland said.
The addition of lights to the on and off ramps will be the most beneficial, Greenwood resident Karla Edson said. When motorists get on and off the interchange ramps, he has seen them slow down and go back and forth between lanes, unsure where to be because the lack of lighting on the dark blacktop, Edson said.
“I think the lights should have been done from the start. A lot of people getting on and off I-65, it’s a little scary. You have to be really cautious without lighting,” he said.
Edson said the interchange bridge has been especially difficult to drive across during rainy mornings and nights when the reflection makes lane markings even harder to see, Edson said.
The mild weather in November and December might have been a blessing in disguise, McFarland said. Black ice would have been extremely hard to see without lighting on the new blacktop, he said.
“If you can’t see what’s there, it’s dangerous,” McFarland said. “Without the lighting that blacktop has just been hard to use. I’m glad they’re getting lights put in.