Traveling through some of Greenwood’s busiest intersections along Smith Valley Road will be drastically different for drivers after a $3.4 million project is complete.
The project will add a two-lane roundabout at the Madison Avenue intersection, eliminate left turns from Smith Valley Road to U.S. 31 and from Meridian Street to Smith Valley Road, and add a jug handle turn at the southeast corner of the U.S. 31 and Smith Valley Road Intersection.
As confusing as that may sound at first, officials say this is the best solution to one of the most congested intersections in the city. At a Wednesday evening meeting, residents asked questions about how the project would impact them, and city officials started the process of educating drivers about how to drive through the updated intersections.
By eliminating left turns, drivers will get a longer green light to travel east and west on Smith Valley Road, which will cut down on traffic backups at the three intersections located within about one-tenth of a mile of each other, Crossroad Engineers president Trent Newport said.
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About 30,000 vehicles pass through Smith Valley Road at the intersections of Meridian Street, Madison Avenue and U.S. 31 each day.
One couple with kids at the Greenwood middle and high schools knows all too well how difficult it can be to navigate that portion of Smith Valley Road.
Tracy McIntosh described the road as a nightmare, especially when he and his wife Heather have to pick up their children from afterschool events in the early evening during heavy traffic backups. Tracy McIntosh was cautiously optimistic that this solution will work.
“I’m glad to see the city address it,” he said.
Construction on the $3.4 million project is set to begin in 2018. The city will first need to spend about $100,000 on purchasing about a half-acre of land.
Federal and state funds will cover about $2.4 million of the cost of the project. The city’s share of the project is about $1 million, and the majority of that amount is coming from the downtown tax increment financing, or TIF, district, City Engineer Mark Richards said.
During construction, one lane of Smith Valley Road will be kept open from Meridian Street to U.S. 31, but drivers will be advised to only use that route if absolutely necessary, Newport said.
No timeline for how long the construction will take is available yet, he said.
Once the work is complete, drivers will no longer be able to make left turns at several intersections. To accommodate those changes, drivers will be rerouted to the jug handle turn and roundabout.
To stop traffic in the westbound lanes from backing up into the roundabout, the traffic lights at Meridian Street will be set up to turn red once a certain amount of vehicles are stopped at the U.S. 31 and Smith Valley Road intersection, he said.
Once construction is complete, officials will spend the next year monitoring the intersection and making adjustments to the traffic signals as necessary, Newport said.
As an alumni of the Greenwood Community High School, Heather McIntosh wants to make sure the iconic marching band signs remains in place in the grass on the southeast side of the U.S. 31 and Smith Valley Road intersection.
Newport assured the audience that the sign will remain, though it may be moved slightly.
Here are the planned changes for three intersections along Smith Valley Road:
U.S. 31: Left turns from Smith Valley Road onto U.S. 31 will be eliminated. A jug handle turn will be placed at the southeast corner of the intersection. Drivers going east on Smith Valley Road will go straight across U.S. 31 and use the jug handle turn to come back around onto northbound U.S. 31 south of the intersection. Drivers going west will be directed to head south and get onto U.S. 31 via Madison Avenue.
Madison Avenue: The traffic lights at the intersection will be replaced by a two-lane roundabout.
Meridian Street: Left turns from Meridian Street to Smith Valley Road will be eliminated. Drivers wanting to go east on Smith Valley Road will need to make a u-turn at the roundabout on Madison Avenue.
Here is a timeline for the Smith Valley Road project.
Project bids: 2017 and 2018
Completion: A projected end date hasn’t been determined