Work to build a new road making up part of an east-west corridor through the county has been delayed for a year while the county changes the route to better handle future traffic.
The proposed road will create a connection between Worthsville and Clark School roads, which is already a popular cut-through between interstates 65 and 74 near Shelbyville. Currently drivers have to make multiple turns down county roads and go through an S-curve to get between the two roads.
Traffic is expected to increase when an I-65 exit is opened at Worthsville Road in late 2015, and the new $3.6 million connector road was supposed to be built next year, too. But the county is changing where the road connects on the east end, which will make a straighter road and also create a new intersection that could be the starting point for a final leg of the route leading to Shelby County.
County officials have raised concerns that more traffic will be running past Clark Elementary School on the two-lane county road, which could be dangerous for buses or parents going in and out of the school. The change won’t solve traffic issues in front of the school, but the new intersection on Franklin Road would be a starting point for a future new road that would go north of the school, away from its main entrance, county highway director Luke Mastin said.
That kind of project would cost millions of dollars, so the county won’t be able to afford it without receiving another large federal grant and would be several years off at the minimum, Mastin said.
“Until we have funding to continue the project to the east and potentially take the new alignment behind the school, traffic in front of the school could be an issue,” Mastin said.
In the short term, the new path connecting at Franklin Road would have less of a curve and prevent the county from having to pay to move additional utilities that are located near the previous connection point, Mastin said.
Previously the county had plotted a route connecting the corners where Worthsville Road curves into Griffith Road, southeast to where County Road 700N bends west of Franklin Road. But the county asked the state to hold grant funding that had been awarded for an additional year, to change the path to a straighter line and build a new intersection with Franklin Road. Instead of connecting at or near a curve in Clark School Road, the connection at Franklin Road would be a traditional right-angle intersection, he said.
The new road is planned to be part of the county’s east-west corridor, where traffic can quickly cross the county or get between I-74, I-65 and State Road 37, which will eventually become part of the southern half of Interstate 69. The new route will allow the county to eventually shift that traffic away from the school and homes in the future, Mastin said.
The existing county roads are narrow, and the thought of semis or more cars using them every day is a concern for area resident Jennifer Taylor, whose home sits close to the road. Her family wants to move and could wait until Greenwood needs to buy their home in order to widen Worthsville Road in the future, she said. The one-year delay in the project will give more time for her children, two of which haven’t started kindergarten yet, to learn to stay away from the street and also allow Greenwood more time to prepare to widen Worthsville Road to handle the higher traffic, she said.
“It really scares me. I just know from what they told me they didn’t think traffic was going to increase, and I kind of laughed to myself,” Taylor said. “There’s going to be big trucks going from one exit to the other that takes you to the interstates, it’s been a very big concern of mine.”
Additional traffic on Clark School Road is also a concern for school officials since the two-lane road isn’t that wide and there are no stop signs in front of the school, Clark-Pleasant Community Schools business director Steve Sonntag said. If buses need to pass semitrailers, it can create some dangerous conditions for both drivers, he said.
More than 600 students attend the elementary school, so the campus generates a large amount of traffic, Sonntag said.
The new route of the connector road shows the county is listening to the district’s concerns about traffic in the area, he said.
“With what you have on (Interstate) 65 and the businesses over on 74, especially with the traffic to and from the casino, we’ve already seen an increase of traffic out front,” Sonntag said.