Starting next week, thousands of commuters and residents will need to find a new way to work and school.
A new roundabout is being built at the intersection of Whiteland and Graham roads. But that means the intersection will be closed for the next two months.
During that time, traffic will be routed about a mile north, passing by farmland and a few homes and traveling on roads that aren’t used to the level of traffic on Whiteland Road. Semi traffic will be sent south on Interstate 65 to the Franklin exit.
Town and county officials plan to keep an eye on the nearby local roads to make sure they are holding up to the traffic, Whiteland town manager Norm Gabehart said.
A recent traffic count showed about 24,000 vehicles per day pass through the intersection.
They also have been working with businesses along Whiteland Road to help put out signs and get out the word that they are still open during construction, he said.
Officials are prepared for the complaints, the aggravated residents and the drivers who try to go around the barricades. But they also know the first two weeks will be the worst, and tempers will calm as motorists get used to the detour route, Gabehart said.
“Sixty days is a long time, but compared to other road projects of this magnitude, it’s really not,” Gabehart said.
Once the work is done, residents should be pleased, he said.
Currently, the intersection is a four-way stop, and traffic routinely backs up with vehicles heading to and from I-65 at rush hour.
“When the results are there, the roundabout will be completed, the pain through this will be worth the efforts put into it. It will be a nice intersection for people commuting through there,” Gabehart said.
The town has spent months preparing for the closure. Initially, officials had planned to begin the construction last year, but that was put off a year so that Whiteland and Worthsville roads — both east-west routes — were not under construction at the same time, he said.
Officials were concerned that if an emergency occurred, especially east of the interstate, traffic would only be able to use Main Street in Greenwood and a couple routes near Franklin, he said.
Now that the new interchange is open and work that closed Worthsville Road is done, the town wanted to begin work on the new roundabout, he said.
The detour will take traffic onto roads that are more rural, and in need of some work. But many of those roads, such as Tracy Road, were already being used last year while work was ongoing on Worthsville Road, Gabehart said.
Some work was done to Tracy Road in preparation for the closure of Worthsville Road, and some work is also planned when the weather improves on South Emerson Avenue, which would take traffic north from Tracy Road, he said.
His advice to commuters: slow down.
Police will be patrolling the detour route, but motorists should drive slower since they are not as familiar with the route.
That area can also be prone to flooding with heavy rains, which is something drivers need to be prepared for, he said.
“People just need to take caution when commuting back and forth through there,” he said.