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Editorial: Finally, east-west route plans gain momentum

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An east-west route across the county has been discussed for nearly a generation, and finally the pieces are beginning to fall into place.

With construction of Greenwood’s long-planned Worthsville Road expansion now scheduled, the city soon will shift its focus to the next phase of the route.

Design work will start this year on the western segment of the route, which will cut through Greenwood and eventually stretch across Johnson County and into Morgan and Shelby counties. Mayor Mark Myers said the next phase of the project will be a massive undertaking and will cost millions, but he said Greenwood has to figure out how to pay for it to keep the momentum going.

Greenwood hopes to next widen Worthsville Road farther west and connect it to Stones Crossing Road to allow the route to handle east-west traffic between U.S. 31 and State Road 135, Myers said. Part of the expanded road would be four lanes, while at least one segment likely would be a two-lane road with wider shoulders and turn lanes that encourage traffic to keep flowing with few stops.

A rough estimate is that construction will cost $16.5 million, but that doesn’t include the cost of designing the project or buying the land, community development services director Mark Richards said.

The city plans to soon hire an engineering firm to design that road and determine how wide it would be, how much land would have to be purchased and what it would cost.

The only funding that’s currently been lined up is for a roundabout that would align Stones Crossing Road where it intersects with Honey Creek Road, Richards said. The city council has set aside $300,000 for designing that intersection and another roundabout on Main Street, but the city will seek federal funds to pay for the actual work.

Construction of the next phase of the Worthsville Road project is expected to be three to five years away.

Myers said Greenwood had to start planning for the next sections of the project as soon as possible because of the upcoming construction of the Worthsville Road interchange at Interstate 65 and other parts of the east-west route. The city must build on the progress that’s being made in Greenwood and Johnson County, he said.

In the past few years, segments of the route have been falling into place, Johnson County Highway Department Director Luke Mastin said.

The county recently opened a roundabout on Whiteland Road and plans a new length of road that would connect Worthsville Road to East County Road 700N. No cost estimate was available for the project, but the county recently hired engineering firm United Consulting to prepare the designs.

Shelby County is widening West County Road 400N, which becomes Clark School Road in Johnson County and which eventually will connect to Worthsville Road.

The east-west route eventually will link Johnson, Morgan and Shelby counties. Drivers could get to Interstate 74, I-65 and State Road 37, which is slated to become Interstate 69.

While the route won’t be a thoroughfare and won’t even be a straight shot, it nonetheless will be a vital transportation and commercial link. The ability to tie three major north-south routes will pay dividends down the road, so to speak. It will open new areas to development and facilitate logistics for existing companies.

With the construction of a new I-65 interchange at Worthsville Road and the widening of the road across much of Greenwood, completion of the east-west project will become even more important.

Momentum finally appears to be building for this project, so this is no time to simply coast.

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