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The Road to Stability


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Expect to navigate orange cones and heavy construction equipment when the state does about $56 million worth of street projects in Johnson County over a four-year period.

Various projects are aimed at making busy commuter roads smoother, intersections safer and bridges sturdier across the county. Kids will get more ways to walk to Center Grove schools, and drivers could have an easier time turning at two White River Township intersections.

Interstate 65 is supposed to get repaved between Greenwood and Whiteland. Workers will repave an even longer stretch of U.S. 31, between Greenwood and Westview Drive in Franklin.

 

One of Franklin’s main roads, State Road 44 or Jefferson Street, will get torn up and rebuilt through most of the city. Driving in or out of Franklin also will get safer when workers correct the curves at Centerline Road and State Road 44.

Overall, the Indiana Department of Transportation has identified $56 million worth of projects it plans to do or help pay for between 2014 and 2017. Whether the projects actually get completed during that time will depend on how much funding is available, but the state has made them a high priority, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Harry Maginity said.

The department of transportation is working on a four-year plan that identifies $2.4 billion of road projects across the state. State transportation officials are now asking for public input about the individual projects that are planned.

“All of these projects are on the horizon,” Maginity said. “But what could affect it is funding, funding, funding and funding.”

The state is looking at spending

$48.3 million in federal funds, mostly gas tax money, on 30 projects across Johnson County. State and local governments would contribute about $8 million in local tax dollars to pay for the road work.

About two-thirds of the projects involve repairing or rebuilding bridges, or fixing pipes under bridges. The state, for instance, plans to build a new barrier wall on a bridge on State Road 252 that spans Sugar Creek and to repave a bridge on I-65 that also extends over Sugar Creek.

In 2016, the state plans to do a major repaving project on I-65 through much of northern Johnson County. The state would spend an estimated $3.6 million to repave the highway between Greenwood and Whiteland.

That same year, a six-mile stretch of U.S. 31 between Greenwood and Franklin also is slated to get a new top coat of asphalt. About $4.2 million would go toward repaving the highway between Stop 18 Road in Greenwood and Westview Drive in Franklin.

Those projects are preventative maintenance aimed at putting off the need for more costly fixes later, Franklin street commissioner Ron Collins said. Franklin, for instance, recently spent about $80,000 to repave the surface of South Street but would have spent at least 10 times that amount to rebuild the same road.

Busy roads may need repaved every five years or so and need to be rebuilt at least every 10 or 15 years, Collins said.

Jefferson Street, which cuts through the heart of Franklin, is long past the point of needing to be rebuilt, Collins said. The road is riddled with potholes and has become an obstacle course for drivers, he said.

“It’s in terrible shape,” he said. “You might as well be driving on a bumper pool table with all the potholes. It’s coming apart in places.”

The state is responsible for maintaining Jefferson Street, which is the name of State Road 44 when it cuts through Franklin.

Currently, the state is eyeing a $13.4 million project to rebuild Jefferson Street and has slated construction for 2017. City officials however are negotiating with the state to take over responsibility for the road so they can make the project’s start date sooner, Collins said.

Rebuilding Jefferson Street is just one of many projects on the state’s list, while Franklin would prioritize it highly, Collins said. The city could move the project through faster and get it done years ahead of schedule, he said.

Jefferson Street might not last until 2017 in its current condition, Collins said.

The once bricked-paved road needs to be rebuilt from the base up to modern standards, Collins said. New storm drains would have to be installed, and the project also could include new sidewalks.

“If we don’t get on it pretty quick, it will get bad enough where people will dodge the downtown,” he said.

Jefferson Street is becoming a safety hazard because drivers might swerve to avoid potholes and get into head-on collisions, Collins said.

Another road project the state is planning next year would make it safer to get into Franklin, if you’re coming from Trafalgar or the southwest part of the county. The state plans to spend about $1.1 million to straighten the curves at Centerline Road and State Road 44.

Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said that intersection is dangerous, especially when it’s raining or icy. A lot of cars trying to negotiate those curves slide off the road whenever it’s slick, he said.

Two other planned road projects in White River Township also are aimed at improving safety for drivers. The state is looking at adding turn lanes at the intersections of State Road 135 and Smokey Row Road in the Center Grove area and at State Road 135 and Main Street in Greenwood.

Smokey Row Road and State Road 135 is one of the more dangerous intersections in Johnson County, since drivers try to dash across the highway or make quick turns in front of oncoming traffic, Cox said. They often don’t make it.

Main Street and State Road 135 is a problem for southbound drivers who are trying to turn eastbound on Main Street, Greenwood community development services director Mark Richards said. The road slants up sharply, and cars can bottom out if they’re trying to speed past oncoming traffic, he said.

The state is considering leveling out that incline and possibly adding turn lanes west into the Meijer supermarket parking lot, Richards said.

Exactly what work will be done won’t be known until engineers are able to study that intersection more in detail, he said.

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