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Intersection traffic fix means 2-month detour

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A roundabout is planned at the intersection of Whiteland and Graham roads. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
A roundabout is planned at the intersection of Whiteland and Graham roads. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

A Whiteland man feels fortunate to be retired whenever he looks down the road from his home and sees a line of motorists inching along, yet again.

For the past 40 years, James Poynter has lived in a home that is just a few hundred feet from the intersection of Whiteland and Graham roads, one of the county’s busiest four-way stops, and he knows about traffic backups.

Poynter can look out his front window during rush hour and see people driving to work and trucks turning down Graham Road to go to factories in Franklin. Some days, traffic stretches all the way to Interstate 65, and motorists slowly inch forward toward the intersection.

Next year, construction will begin on a $1.1 million roundabout at the intersection to help with traffic. The goal is to make a wide intersection so that semitrailer rigs and commuters can pass through the intersection more easily.

With a roundabout, traffic won’t have to come to a complete stop. Instead, drivers will merge with traffic that is flowing in the same direction. About 12,000 motorists pass through the intersection daily, and backups are a constant issue during rush hours due to the high volume of trucks and cars from multiple directions driving through the intersection.

But first, motorists will have to deal with a major hassle: The intersection will be closed for about two months during construction of the roundabout.

Town officials and engineers initially discussed keeping the intersection open during construction but later decided it had to be closed due to the expenses and logistics. Completely closing an intersection that has many motorists driving through on a daily basis is not ideal. But neither is keeping the intersection open, CrossRoad Engineers vice president Trent Newport said.

A new, temporary road could be built, but it would have to be out of the way of the roundabout. Building a new road for the construction process would require buying additional property, Newport said.

“You would spend a lot of money on building temporary stuff that isn’t needed long term just to keep the intersection open,” Newport said.

The roundabout project will cost $1.1 million, and 80 percent of that amount will be funded though federal grants. The remaining $220,000 will be paid for by the town of Whiteland, town manager Dennis Capozzi said. The project initially was planned to begin this year but was delayed after the county transferred responsibility of the project to Whiteland when the town annexed the area near the intersection.

Most roundabouts are built to handle truck traffic, with the exception of some in urban areas where space is an issue. The roundabout at Whiteland and Graham roads will have an apron around the middle, which is like a curb that slopes downward, allowing trucks extra space if they misjudge the area with less of a chance of damaging the curb, Newport said.

The roundabout will be one lane but wide enough for the heavy volume of truck traffic that turns south onto Graham Road to travel into Franklin. The roundabout will be similar in size to one at Whiteland Road and County Road 144, Capozzi said.

Poynter moved to his home on Graham Road in 1974 and made a daily commute to Indianapolis for work until he retired in 1997. In the 1990s, he can remember waiting for a few motorists to get through the intersection, but nothing like the backups he sees today.

Since then, thousands of homes have been built, and the county’s population has grown by 63 percent. Now, commuters from Franklin, Whiteland and the Center Grove area use the interstate exit on Whiteland Road to get to and from work in Indianapolis.

The increase in traffic and homebuilding in the area reminded Poynter of the Southport area, which was where he grew up. He remembers that area being quiet without much development, but now restaurants, stores, businesses — and of course, traffic — fill the area.

Poynter said he only has to go through the intersection of Whiteland and Graham roads a few times a week. And because he’s retired he can pick and choose, for the most part, when he runs errands in order to beat the backups.

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