Emerson Avenue in Greenwood is a four-lane road with sidewalks, clearly marked lanes, access roads and turning lanes.

But across County Line Road, all that ends.

Traffic coming to or from a new Kroger Marketplace, restaurants and a gas station must dart out onto a street that quickly narrows. If a car is turning left, traffic slows and often backs up or motorists have to quickly switch lanes to be able to head straight or make a turn.

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A fix for the one-mile stretch of Emerson from County Line Road to Stop 11 Road, which is the responsibility of Indianapolis, is nowhere in sight.

In October, the city applied for a grant that would have funded about $12 million in projected costs to add a lane in each direction, sidewalks and a median for that stretch of Emerson.

But the application was denied by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization, which means Indianapolis can’t apply for funding again until later this year. And if awarded grant money, even more time would pass before any work was done. Federal funding isn’t available until five years after approval, said Larry Jones deputy director of engineering for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works.

If money to fix Emerson Avenue were OK’d this fall, the earliest work could begin is 2022.

And that five-year timetable is solely for funding availability. Planning that has to be done for the improvements could take additional time, Jones said. Final design plans won’t begin until the department receives approval from the MPO. Then the department would review current studies and determine the best plans possible before getting the land and coordinating with utility companies, Jones said.

“We have our own timetable before work could begin. We hope applying for it last year got their attention,” Jones said.

Costco will be built and open on County Line Road, just west of Emerson Avenue, before city officials hear if funding has been approved. And construction of the 700,000-square-foot Greenwood Town Center planned for County Line Road east of Interstate 65 could be complete, drawing in more traffic, before planning of Emerson Avenue improvements are completed.

Flourishing growth has increased the volume of traffic at the intersection of Emerson Avenue and County Line Road, where 20,000 vehicles pass through each day. New grocery stores, hotels, restaurants and retail stores have made the area a shopping and eating destination on the weekends and evenings.

“We have several corridors that are congested and need widening; and when we took a look at them, Emerson Avenue was the biggest need. The development that’s going in will draw even more traffic. It’s a congestion issue,” Jones said.

Indianapolis competes against others central Indiana communities such as Carmel and Fishers for federal funding, Jones said. In order to be considered and possibly included in the MPO’s next long-range transportation plans, when the city applies this fall, Emerson Avenue has to score well in two separate evaluation processes, said Anna Gremling, executive director of Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The Emerson Avenue improvements are actually broken into two phases. When the department applied last fall, the improvements received a score of 63 out of 100 on both applications. The department was hoping to be awarded funding for one of the two phases the first time around, Jones said.

The second phase will widen the road and add sidewalks and a median to Emerson Avenue between Stop 11 Road and Southport Crossing Place with a projected price tag of about $7.2 million. But that phase wouldn’t begin construction until the work on Emerson Avenue between County Line and Stop 11 roads was completed, Jones said. Indiana Department of Transportation also would have to build a new bridge over I-65 when that work begins, so construction of phase two is even further away than phase one, Jones said.

Both projects would cost more than the funding that would be available, so the department sent applications for two separate projects, even though they’re for the same purpose, Jones said.

“There’s not enough money to do everything that needs to be done, so we need to invest the money where we’ll get the most out of the area,” Jones said.

What will be done?

The Indianapolis Department of Public Works is applying for more than $20 million in federal funding from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization. If applications are approved, here is some of the work that would take place on Emerson Avenue, north of County Line Road.

Emerson Avenue between Stop 11 and County Line roads:

  • widening the road
  • adding a northbound and southbound lane
  • two-way left-turn lanes
  • a median and sidewalks on both sides of the road

Cost: $11.4 million

Emerson Avenue between Stop 11 Road and Southport Crossing Place

  • widening the road
  • adding a northbound and southbound lane
  • two-way left-turn lanes
  • a median and sidewalks on both sides of the road
  • INDOT would also construct a new bridge over Interstate 65.

Cost (not including bridge): $7.2 million.

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Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at celliot@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2719.