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Land deals push back Worthsville interchange work

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The owners of some of the property needed to build a new Interstate 65 exit in Greenwood haven’t agreed to a sale, meaning a new exit won’t be built this year.

The new interchange on Worthsville Road was originally scheduled to open in the summer of 2015. Now, the Indiana Department of Transportation is asking for court orders to force property owners who have not agreed to sell to let the state buy their land.

If a judge approves, the landowners will be required to sell the five properties still needed for the new interchange, and construction will begin in the spring of 2015.

The interchange will become a new entrance into Greenwood, and city officials have been planning what they want the area to look like when it’s developed.

The city is annexing about 1,800 acres around the future interchange and plans for the new part of Greenwood to include high-end houses, offices and restaurants that serve locally grown food.

The delay in construction won’t impact Greenwood’s plans for the area, community development services director Mark Richards said.

The city has started work to widen Worthsville Road and add an access road from Sheek Road to Clark-Pleasant Middle School to alleviate congestion in the area. Work began last month to install storm sewer pipes, which is a part of the project that can be done despite winter weather, Richards said. Worthsville Road is set to be closed between U.S. 31 and Sheek Road from March to November, he said.

State officials plan to hire contractors in September and expect to start construction of the interchange at Worthsville Road in the spring of 2015, or about a year behind schedule.

They also plan to finish building the interchange, which is a crossover design known as a diverging diamond, next year, Richards said. The interchange will cost up to $22 million, and Greenwood will pay half the total costs as long as the amount does not exceed $11 million.

To build the interchange at Worthsville Road, the state is buying 16 properties in the area but wasn’t able to reach agreements to buy seven of them, Richards said.

INDOT now plans to ask for court orders that would require the landowners to sell through a process known as eminent domain. The state is buying up to 48 acres for the project and is required by law to purchase more land than needed for the highway exit if any of the properties will become landlocked.

In addition, the city plans to start widening Worthsville Road from two to four lanes to serve traffic exiting at the future interchange, but the state’s delay won’t impact the city’s work at all, Richards said. The city’s project was designed to coordinate with the state’s work, he said.

“I suppose from a broad view that, because of the delay in the interchange project, it’s going to postpone some development opportunities out there,” he said.

Last fall, the state’s plan was to accept bids on the work from companies in December and start construction of the interchange this spring.

The state chose to wait to hire a contractor so it could buy the land and the utilities could be moved first, INDOT project manager KimberLee Peters said.

“We’re lowering the risk to keep the cost down on the project,” she said.

The state highway department typically doesn’t start hiring contractors until it has purchased all of the land for a project, Richards said. Companies such as Duke Energy and Comcast will need to move their utility lines and other equipment before construction can start. As the state buys land, the utility companies have been moving their lines, and all of those companies’ work should be finished by the end of this year, he said.

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