A two-lane road from State Road 37 to Greenwood is expected to become a heavily-trafficked route once Interstate 69 is built.
Smith Valley Road is mostly lined with homes right now, along with a few farm fields, but it is slated to become an interchange on I-69 — one of three in the county. Local officials know that will mean more vehicles on the road, but they aren’t sure yet what to do to address the added traffic.
Before I-69 is constructed, the county plans to hire an engineering firm to study the traffic now, estimate how many motorists will be using the road in the future and determine what upgrades should be made. On the list of possibilities: widening the road to four lanes.
Now that State Road 37 has been deemed the route for I-69 by the state, local officials are creating wish lists of upgrades to their own roads they want done before the interstate opens. According to conceptual maps from the state, Smith Valley Road, County Road 144 and County Line Road are slated to be interchanges along the future route of I-69 through Johnson County. Other roads, such as Travis or Olive Branch roads, will likely become dead ends once the interstate opens, while a few, such as Stones Crossing or Fairview roads, could become an underpass or overpass, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
State officials are still studying the exact alignment of the interstate, and would still need federal approval — and funding — before I-69 could be built. Construction of the interstate is still years away.
But for local officials, planning for the added traffic and development begins now, they said.
The county is hiring an engineering firm to do a traffic study and suggest upgrades that should be done before the interstate opens, said highway director Luke Mastin. Based on that study, officials will know if major upgrades — such as widening Smith Valley Road from two to four lanes — are really warranted, or if the interchange will not bring as much traffic as estimated, Mastin said.
County officials already suggested widening Smith Valley Road, County Line Road and County Road 144 from the center of the county west to State Road 37 in the county’s 2011 comprehensive plan. County Line Road is Marion County’s responsibility, but Mastin expects Johnson County officials to participate in conversations about possible upgrades at the future interchange location, he said.
In addition, county officials are expecting Smith Valley Road to evolve into a more commercialized area, with homes replaced with office space or shopping centers in the next few decades. Last year, the county planning and zoning department started updating the county comprehensive plan to suggest areas that could turn into more commercial areas along the road, and Smith Valley Road is one of the key areas.
County Road 144 is currently a rural, winding two-lane road, mostly surrounded by farm fields and a few homes. But officials have been planning for development from State Road 37, or the future I-69, for years. A new roundabout was built at County Road 144 and Whiteland Road in 2012. And next, officials are considering upgrading the 4-way-stop intersection of County Road 144 and Morgantown Road, once the road becomes an exit off I-69.
But the key focus area is the intersection with the future interstate.
Plans are already in the works to extend sewer services from downtown Bargersville to the intersection of State Road 37 and County Road 144, Bargersville town council member Ken Zumstein said. Bargersville is teaming up with Morgan County officials to add sewer lines on either side of State Road 37, since both expect a boom in commercial development once I-69 is constructed, Zumstein said. The two governments can split the cost, he said.
A developer wants to build a commercial development at the southeast corner of State Road 37 and County Road 144, but has not started construction due to the lack of sewer lines, Zumstein said.
Further east on Smith Valley Road, Greenwood has long been considering what should be done about traffic, especially near State Road 135.
One project that would have relieved traffic headaches along Smith Valley Road has been delayed by at least a year, city engineer Mark Richards said. City officials wanted to install a roundabout at the intersection of Smith Valley Road and State Road 135 by 2019, but the funding did not cover the total cost of the project, so Greenwood relinquished the grant back to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization, Richards said.
So now, the city is trying again to get grant funding for the roundabout, he said.
But addressing the added traffic from I-69 on Smith Valley Road and other nearby roads, such as Fairview Road, is not the top priority right now, Richards said.
Greenwood already has other construction projects in the works, such as on Worthsville Road, and improvements at the intersection of Main Street and Graham Road, he said.
“My goal is to get projects underway now before I put more on my plate. It takes a lot of time to manage these projects and we have a lot going on in the city right now,” Richards said.
Although the new interstate will directly impact communities on the west side of the county, Whiteland and Franklin officials believe I-69 will bring new commercial and industrial business their way, and they want to prepare to attract those companies.
“I do believe it (I-69) has an impact on us,” said Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness. “I think it complements Franklin, and could be an asset.”
So while Franklin won’t be expanding or improving roads due to the new interstate, McGuinness will be telling business owners about the city’s desirable location, since it is will be in between two major interstates, he said.
McGuinness and Whiteland town manager Norm Gabehart believe the city and town are ideal locations for industrial and manufacturing companies to move in, since they’re close to interstates, state highways and Indianapolis, they said.
“(We’re) making sure everyone’s aware that Whiteland’s here to do business,” Gabehart said.
Gabehart also anticipates Whiteland Road to become a major east-west corridor for motorists, and expects more businesses to open along the road, he said. Currently, land east of downtown Whiteland is undeveloped, and zoned for agricultural use.
But Gabehart expects business owners to see the land as a blank slate for new commercial and industrial buildings, he said. Whiteland plans on extending water services east toward Interstate 65 later this year, to prepare for future development.
Gabehart also wants to straighten a sharp curve in Graham Road, between Tracy and Whiteland roads, since he believes that will be a common route for motorists traveling north and south, he said.
But the key question will be how to fund those projects, officials said. Officials plan on looking into state and federal funding options, and could apply for larger grants by working together.
Widening roads or improving intersections are expensive projects, Mastin said.
“Funding those improvements is going to be the biggest challenge we’ve faced in a long time,” Mastin said.
City, town and county officials are compiling a wish list of projects they want done before or during the construction of Interstate 69, which will be built along State Road 37. Here’s a look at some of the improvements they want to make:
Improve the intersection of Morgantown Road and County Road 144
Extend sewer services to potential commercial areas State Road 37 and County Road 144
Widen Smith Valley Road to four lanes
Prepare for more commercial building and traffic at State Road 37 and Smith Valley Road
Straighten out Graham Road, between Tracy and Whiteland roads
State officials have not announced when construction would start for Section 6 of Interstate 69, which will connect Martinsville to Indianapolis along State Road 37. Here’s a look at the timeline for the interstate:
First quarter of 2017: Indiana Department of Transportation will announce the preferred route between Martinsville and Indianapolis, including where interchanges will be, which roads along State Road 37 will become dead ends and where overpasses or underpasses will be
First quarter of 2018: The final route of Section 6 will be announced by the state
Later in 2018: The federal government will vote on the official route of Section 6
TBD: When construction of Section 6 will begin
Source: The Indiana Department of Transportation