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City can do little about busiest intersections


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When the busiest intersection in Greenwood backs up, a southside commuter has an alternate route.

If Angie Hayden is running errands near where she works at Schaub CPA Group, she skips the County Line Road and Emerson Avenue intersection by taking a detour through a nearby grocery store parking lot.

t times, Angie Hayden has waited for 15 minutes and through four stoplight cycles to get through the intersection during her daily commute to work, she said. But when she cuts through the store parking lot, she can avoid the intersection’s frequent traffic jams and accidents.

County Line Road and Emerson Avenue is Greenwood’s busiest intersection, with more than 20,000 vehicles driving through it during morning and evening rush hours. The Greenwood Police Department reported 25 accidents at the intersection in 2012, for an average of about one crash every other week.

Accidents particularly bog down traffic and send her to alternate driving routes, Hayden said.

Like Greenwood’s other nine busiest intersections, it’s near a highway, but Emerson Avenue also shrinks to two lanes, city community development services director Mark Richards said. That creates a bottleneck; but the fix would require widening Emerson Avenue north of County Line Road, and that would be Marion County’s responsibility, he said. Marion County has discussed widening the road for years, but without results, he said.

Six of Greenwood’s busiest intersections are on U.S. 31. During the morning and evening rush hours, the number of drivers traveling through each one ranges from about 17,000 to more than 20,000, according to the city’s most recent traffic study.

Dozens of accidents happened at each one last year. In 2012, three of the busiest intersections in the city — at Smith Valley Road and State Road 135, U.S. 31 and Fry Road, and County Line Road and Madison Avenue — averaged nearly one accident per week or more, according to data from the Greenwood police.

When you ask commuters about traffic, they often are the first intersections mentioned. The sites also have gotten the attention of local officials. They have heard residents’ complaints but say there is little they can do.

Improving the intersections by widening roads, constructing roundabouts or changing traffic signals is talked about, but for most of the intersections residents shouldn’t expect changes soon, Richards said.

Lack of funding often blocks projects, he said.

For example, the city has applied for a federal grant to pay for a $1.8 million roundabout at Madison Avenue and Smith Valley Road, which would improve traffic flow in the area. But the city likely won’t be able to afford building one if it doesn’t get the grant money, Richards said.

The city has spent $42,000 during the past three years at a few of the intersections to repair asphalt but hasn’t come up with money to do road widening and other major projects necessary to improve traffic.

The Indiana Department of Transportation has considered upgrades for some of the intersections at state highways, but no projects are in the works, and the city isn’t going to do work on roads owned by the state, he said.

“I think there’s some reluctance to make improvements to state roads using local funds,” he said.

Development, such as the Walmart and shopping centers on Emerson Avenue, and Greenwood’s rapid population growth have increased traffic dramatically in recent years, Richards said.

Twenty or 30 years ago, Emerson Avenue was a two-lane county road. Now, the part that hasn’t been widened causes traffic to bottleneck, he said.

“I think they’ve always had problems. They’re just continuing to get worse,” he said.

The city is pursuing a handful of potential projects to ease traffic congestion.

Besides the possible roundabout on Madison Avenue, the city is working with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to make improvements at State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road, which is the city’s second-busiest with 16,935 vehicles at peak times. The planned construction, which is being paid for by Wal-Mart, includes a new median and turn lane that are intended to keep traffic flowing through the intersection.

But complications — such who owns the roads, whether that be the state or Marion County — mean traffic may not improve any time soon at most of Greenwood’s busiest intersections, Richards said.

That means commuters such as Hayden will keep getting frustrated and looking for shortcuts. For example, when traffic at County Line Road and Madison Avenue backs up 10 vehicles deep, Hayden cuts through a parking lot to avoid the traffic.

“I get so aggravated,” she said.

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