Several times a year, emergency workers get called to one of the most dangerous intersections in the county for yet another serious accident.
Even before they get to the intersection of Smokey Row Road and State Road 135, they know what to expect: a vehicle has been T-boned by another traveling at least 50 mph. In half of the accidents, someone is hurt; and in one in four accidents, they will need to cut someone out of a severely mangled vehicle, Bargersville Fire Chief Jason Ramey said.
By the end of this year, a simple project is expected to make a big difference.
The Indiana Department of Transportation plans to add a stoplight and left-turn lanes on all four sides of the Smokey Row Road and State Road 135 intersection at the edge of Greenwood. Construction is slated to start in August, but some work already is being done by a gas company moving a pipeline.
The stoplight will solve the ongoing problem of accidents caused by motorists trying to turn onto or cross over State Road 135 and misjudging how much time they have or how fast vehicles are coming on the highway.
The intersection is among the most crash-prone in the area because only vehicles on Smokey Row Road have to stop before going through the intersection, and often the vehicles that had stopped cut into traffic in front of oncoming traffic, Ramey said.
Just adding the stoplight should make the intersection safer because drivers will have to stop in all four directions, and those on Smokey Row Road will have a green light, instead of trying to get into gaps between cars on State Road 135, he said.
“They’ll have the right of way instead of having to gamble,” he said.
Currently, drivers on Smokey Row have stop signs on the east and west sides of the intersection, while the heavy north-south traffic on State Road 135 doesn’t have to stop.
This year’s traffic counts from the highway department show 18,834 cars per day passing through the intersection on State Road 135 and nearly 3,000 per day on Smokey Row Road.
Accidents are among the main reason for the planned intersection construction project, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Harry Maginity said.
The traffic on State Road 135, where the speed limit is 50 mph, doesn’t consistently allow gaps for the motorists on Smokey Row Road to cross the intersection safely or merge onto the highway. The traffic light and turn lanes will create bigger gaps, allowing traffic to flow through the intersection better, he said.
Smokey Row Road on the east side will be closed at the intersection for 30 days once construction starts. After that reopens, the west side will be closed.
Once the project is finished, Smokey Row Road will be wider at the intersection and then shrink back to two lanes on the other side. The change in width shouldn’t be a problem when drivers get used to it, Ramey said. The intersection of State Road 135 and Stones Crossing Road south of the Marsh store is similar, and drivers have adapted, he said.
The accidents currently tend to happen because a motorist on Smokey Row misjudges the speed of highway traffic, shoots out into the intersection and then gets smashed in the side by vehicles on State Road 135, Ramey said.
Morgantown resident Rose Marie Stiffler drives through the intersection twice a week or more and worries when she sees vehicles at the Smokey Row stop signs waiting for an opportunity to zip through the highway traffic.
She’s seen three accidents in recent years, and after one of them she spotted a child lying on the ground and getting emergency medical care, she said.
“I honestly feel a sense of fright when I approach that corner and I see people waiting to come out,” Stiffler said. “It’s very scary. And sometimes there are people in all directions.”