Sandy Butcher has been leaving 20 minutes early every day for work because she has no idea what U.S. 31 will look like when she gets there.
Some days, the lanes seem to all be open and traffic is flowing at a normal pace, but other days a lane is closed and she sits for 10 or more minutes in traffic while crews work on a project to repave the highway in Greenwood.
Drivers like Butcher said they’re frustrated with the traffic but understand the work is important.
“I get work has to be done to make our roads better and more driveable,” Butcher said. “But the traffic jams are ridiculous and people are starting to lose their tempers when they drive.”
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Paving work on U.S. 31 between Stop 18 and County Line Road in Greenwood has led to daily traffic jams, especially around rush hour times. Now, the state says that work is set to be finished by the end of next week, but the traffic headaches aren’t over yet.
Next on the list to be paved: State Road 135, between County Line and Curry roads. But that work will be done in the evenings, hopefully avoiding as much congestion as U.S. 31, said Harry Maginity, media relations director for the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Roads have to be repaired and resurfaced once every 10 to 12 years because of the constant wear and tear. The work on U.S. 31 for the past few weeks was the first part of a three-step pavement preservation project in Johnson County on U.S. 31 and State Road 135, which will cost $6.1 million, Maginity said.
In the past two weeks, crews added a new surface layer to the road to fill cracks. While milling the surface layer, wires attached to the traffic signals had to be torn up, meaning new wires had to be embedded in the pavement. The final step is connecting asphalt entries to the highway and painting lines, which is expected to be finished next week. Once that is done, the same work will begin on State Road 135.
The construction has affected commuters, residents, workers around the area and students at Central Nine Career Center, just north of Worthsville Road.
“Thursday was our first day of school, and we had a few late buses in the morning and a few that were late to pick up students in the afternoon, so it’s definitely affecting us that way,” said Mike Quaranta, assistant director of Central Nine Career Center.
Because U.S. 31 is a multi-lane road and traffic can still flow if a lane is shut down, construction can be done during the day and night. For drivers, that means they could face traffic jams any time of day.
Bobby Woods works at Enterprise Rent-A-Car on U.S. 31 and said although the construction hasn’t affected business, it has affected traffic flow.
“If you look out there at lunchtime or 3 p.m. or 5 p.m., it’s really congested,” he said. “Sometimes you see people sitting in the same spot for five minutes or so — that has to be annoying.”
But the work should be done soon. Maginity said if bad weather holds off, the project on U.S. 31 should be done by the end of next week.
When that work is done, the same crew will move to State Road 135 and County Line and do work southbound to Curry Road.
But this time, that work is being done in the evenings, between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., and lanes won’t be closed during the day.
For the project on State Road 135, crews will pave the right turn lanes, travel lanes and left turn lanes — in that order, and then will install the traffic signals and will paint the lines.
Once work is done on that section, which could take a few weeks, the third and final portion of the project will be done on State Road 135, between Bargersville and Stones Crossing Road going northbound.
Right now, INDOT cannot predict a start date for the project because it depends on the when the other two projects are finished, Maginity said.
Over the next few weeks, motorists can expect construction on two of the county’s busiest north-south routes — U.S. 31 and State Road 135. Here is what you can expect
Road paving on U.S. 31
Where: Between County Line Road and Stop 18 Road
When: INDOT expects the project to be done by the end of the week
Paving on State Road 135
Where: Between County Line Road and Curry Road, moving southbound.
When: After crews finish work on U.S. 31, they will shift to this project.
Where: between Bargersville and Stones Crossing Road, moving northbound.
When: The state does not have a timeline for this project, because it depends on the status of the previous two projects.