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Motorists face problems after leaving I-65

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As drivers get off the interstate and try to make a left turn to head into Franklin or Greenwood, they’re often stuck waiting, and vehicles line up behind them.

Maybe they need to stop and pick up groceries at one of the stores off County Line Road. They drive north on Interstate 65, exit and pull to the end of the ramp. As they look left, rush-hour traffic coming out of Greenwood rolls past. They look right, and motorists are headed to restaurants or shops along Emerson Avenue. Drivers who get off at State Road 44 in Franklin can run into the same problem trying to make a left turn as people go in and out of the city.

Drivers are faced with waiting for a safe opening, trying to make a speedy turn in front of traffic or, as some drivers headed into Franklin have learned, making a right turn and then a quick U-turn. But those options pose a constant safety concern.

You won’t run into those problems at Main Street in Greenwood or at Whiteland Road. The reason: a stoplight.

The state isn’t considering putting in a stoplight at either County Line Road or State Road 44 because the most recent traffic data about the number of vehicles per day and accidents don’t justify a need, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Harry Maginity said.

When the state looks at whether a stoplight is needed, engineers consider traffic counts, accident data and whether traffic backs up past the ramp so vehicles can’t exit the interstate, Maginity said. The state takes traffic counts every few years — the most recent done on the interstates and off ramps in Johnson County were in 2011 and 2012 — but also can study traffic when a county, city or town makes a request, Maginity said.

Neither Franklin or Greenwood has made a request to the state to take another look at the intersections, city officials said.

Stuck in traffic?

When northbound traffic gets off Interstate 65 at an exit, making a left turn can be difficult due to cross traffic. Here’s how many people use the southeast ramp at local interchanges every day:

1,678 vehicles exiting at State Road 44 in Franklin

2,433 vehicles exiting at Whiteland Road

2,925 vehicles exiting at Main Street in Greenwood

3,091 vehicles exiting at County Line Road in Greenwood

3,185 vehicles exiting at Southport Road

New interstate designs, such as the diverging diamond exit being built at Worthsville Road in Greenwood, are being created to eliminate the dangerous left turns when exiting the interstate. At Worthsville Road, drivers getting off the interstate will merge with traffic going the same direction, so they won’t need to try to cross one or two lanes of cars, according to Greenwood director of community development services Mark Richards.

“This design is really intended to eliminate those left turns, that cross traffic,” he said.

Franklin could talk with the state once the plan for development around the I-65 area is complete, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said. County Line Road is controlled by Indianapolis, so Greenwood doesn’t have direct ability to make improvements, Richards said. But since the road is a major gateway into the city, Greenwood would talk with the state if traffic becomes more of a problem, he said.

The intersections are a concern as both cities continue work to bring in new businesses around their interstate exits. More businesses, such as restaurants or hotels that both cities are trying to attract, would increase the number of vehicles exiting the interstate and would aggravate current problems, McGuinness said.

Traffic around the interstate is expected to continue to increase due to new developments around the exits. In Greenwood, three restaurants have opened within the past year around County Line Road and Emerson Avenue, and a hotel company announced a new hotel and sports facility near the interchange as well. In Franklin, the city is conducting a study to determine what type of development would work best at its exit and then will try to attract those type of businesses.

Nearly 14,000 vehicles use King Street west of the the I-65 exit, and about 6,000 per day travel east of the interchange, according to state traffic counts. Truck traffic from warehouses at the nearby tech park east of I-65 already is pretty constant throughout the day, McGuinness said.

“Current traffic at times can be heavy. What happens if things develop? If we get a restaurant or whatever else out there, how do we deal with increased traffic with increased development? That’s something that’s on the radar,” McGuinness said.

Aside from inconvenient waits for commuters, safety is an issue. Making a left turn at an intersection is one of the most dangerous maneuvers a driver makes on the road, and the interstate ramps in both Greenwood and Franklin exit onto four-lane roads that take longer to get across.

Compared with a two-way or four-way stop, a stoplight can reduce the risk of T-bone accidents, which can cause serious injuries to motorists. But a light often results in more minor rear-end accidents, Maginity said.

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