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Closed crossing snarls traffic

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A motorist turns around after discovering the road is closed for repairs at the railroad crossing on Smith Valley Road near State Road 135 in Greenwood, Ind. Mike Wolanin / Daily Journal
A motorist turns around after discovering the road is closed for repairs at the railroad crossing on Smith Valley Road near State Road 135 in Greenwood, Ind. Mike Wolanin / Daily Journal

Drivers undeterred by the warning sign near the closed railroad crossing on Smith Valley Road are making U-turns in the middle of the street, through a neighborhood and in business parking lots when they realize they can’t get through.

A resident of the Shepherds Grove neighborhood has seen a dozen cars at a time loop through the entrance of her subdivision while walking her dog in the evening. And at one nearby intersection, evening traffic backups have become noticeable.

Smith Valley Road between Peterman Road and State Road 135 was closed Sunday so the Indiana Rail Road Co. can replace rails and ties at the crossing. Construction is scheduled to finish by the end of this week.

The intersection of County Line and Morgantown roads also has been closed since May, and work started Monday on a crosswalk on Stones Crossing Road. Now, drivers are looking for alternate routes throughout the Center Grove area, including on Peterman, Olive Branch and Fairview roads.

At the intersection of Fairview and Peterman roads, an alternate route for Smith Valley Road, traffic has been backing up 100 vehicles deep in the evenings, White River Township resident Nick Johnson said.

The stream of vehicles making U-turns at the railroad crossing concerns residents in the area.

Some of the vehicles are speeding, which is dangerous in a community of mostly elderly people, Shepherds Grove resident Juanita Robson said.

She and her neighbors enjoy walking together every evening and they’re used to walking safely in the street, she said.

The street isn’t as safe, particularly for her neighbors who are hard of hearing, if motorists speed through, she said. Not all of the vehicles turn around at the entrance of the neighborhood. Some zip all the way through the subdivision’s looped road, Shepherds Way, she said. She’s not used to having speeding cars drive through the neighborhood.

And now when they return from a trip to the store, her husband gets frustrated that they have to wait for four or five drivers to turn around in the Shepherds Grove entrance before they can make the left turn to get home, she said.

Robson said she wonders why motorists don’t obey the sign at Smith Valley Road and State Road 135, which forbids through traffic that isn’t traveling to the homes and businesses on the east side of the railroad crossing.

“We can kind of get a kick out of it because they can’t read that big sign at the end of the street,” she said.

The detour route is about a mile out of drivers’ way on Olive Branch Road, which motorists on Smith Valley Road can get to from State Road 135 or Berry Road.

Since the road was closed, Michael Ruhana, a sales support representative for Crown Packaging on Smith Valley Road, has a 20-minute commute to work rather than a seven-minute drive.

The small change to his routine isn’t a big deal, and he thinks the work will clean up the crossing, he said.

The closure has temporarily cut eastbound traffic to businesses.

Because there’s no through traffic coming from the west, the cars and trucks turning around in business parking lots aren’t changing traffic flow much, said Ashley Christian, building manager for Yeager Properties.

Even a semi using her office building’s parking lot to turn around didn’t cause traffic delays in or out of the business, since the closed crossing has stopped the traffic coming from State Road 37, she said.

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