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Still on the road: Center Grove area projects continue

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A Center Grove area intersection reopened after being closed for three months, giving drivers some relief from traffic backups on their way to work and school.

The relief could be short-lived. Multiple other projects, including construction on Smith Valley Road and an intersection widening at Smokey Row Road and State Road 135, are planned throughout the Center Grove area in the coming months.

Workers reopened the intersection of County Line and Morgantown roads last week after closing it in mid-May. The intersection is wider with turn lanes, and the stop signs will be replaced with a stoplight in the next few weeks.

Indianapolis, which is responsible for projects and maintenance on County Line Road, chose to upgrade the narrow intersection because it has become a popular route for Center Grove area residents heading north to work in the city.

Center Grove area residents and commuters shouldn’t expect to be free of traffic jams for the rest of the summer because additional road projects are just getting started.

Work at Smith Valley Road and State Road 135 is scheduled to start by the end of this month; construction crews still are upgrading multiple railroad crossings on the west side of the county; the state is widening the intersection at Smokey Row Road and State Road 135; and Greenwood’s annual paving work, which includes major roads such as Stones Crossing Road and Fry Road, has yet to begin.

Drivers likely will have to deal with more major road projects in coming years, but the improvements are making White River Township a safer place to drive, Sheriff Doug Cox said. The population in the Center Grove area grew so quickly that the state, county and cities are still trying to build up roads to handle all the traffic, he said.

Traffic has lightened now that the intersection of Morgantown and County Line roads is open again, and commuters already are making it through more easily because of the new turn lanes, said Tom Maurer, who lives west of the intersection. Once the stoplight is put up, that should speed up traffic even more, he said.

Workers plan to put up the new signal by the end of the month, Indianapolis Department of Public Works spokeswoman Kelly Janssen said. Crews shouldn’t need to close the intersection again to complete that work, she said.

While the intersection was closed, traffic trying to go north to Indianapolis for work or east or west between State Road 37 and Greenwood headed to Fairview Road, Maurer said. Traffic on Southport Road to the north and on State Road 37 also was much heavier during construction, he said.

Traffic was so heavy and slow during rush hour that he canceled his Friday night dinners in Greenwood with friends during the construction, he said.

“We just called that off because the roads south of here just backed up east and west; every intersection was like that,” Maurer said.

The extra traffic caused significant backups at four-way intersections, such as Peterman Road and Leisure Lane, and at the stoplight at State Road 135.

Johnette Cruz, who lives near State Road 135 but works at Mount Pleasant Christian Church near State Road 37, said the usual five-minute trips between home and work turned into 15 or 20 minutes on most days. A few times she attempted to try to cut through subdivisions to dodge traffic, but she didn’t know all the routes and usually just ended up getting lost, she said.

“It was a huge delay as far as the traffic was concerned,” Cruz said. “You’d try to get around it, but there’s no way to get through it.”

The additional traffic also led to longer waits for people trying to get in and out of church services, said Cruz, the communications director for the church.

Cox also got calls from five residents complaining about traffic jams around other area churches. Deputies drove out to assess the traffic backups but did not do any traffic control at intersections, because sending people through one intersection would have just caused a backup at the next one, Cox said.

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