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Whiteland faces design, funding decisions for roundabout

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A roundabout is planned at the intersection of Graham and Whiteland roads to help ease rush hour congestion. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
A roundabout is planned at the intersection of Graham and Whiteland roads to help ease rush hour congestion. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

Thousands of commuters travel though a Johnson County intersection each day, causing big backups during rush hour, and now a roundabout is planned to help move traffic along.

Traffic jams happen nearly everyday at the four-way stop at the intersection of Whiteland and Graham roads. Trucks coming from Franklin, commuters coming to and from Interstate 65 for work and high school students traveling home after classes all back up traffic at the intersection.

Traffic counts don’t show a major increase in travel since 2004, but about 12,000 vehicles pass through the intersection daily. But Whiteland officials expect traffic to continue to grow in the future as more people move into the county and as the town hopes to start a business park east of the intersection.

The roundabout is part of Whiteland’s long-term plan to develop the area between downtown and Interstate 65 to attract businesses and industry, Whiteland planning and zoning director Nathan Bilger said. Whiteland annexed the area around the intersection last year and will now take over the intersection project, which was originally planned by the county.

Road to roundabout

Backup: Traffic gets backed up at the intersection of Whiteland and Graham roads because drivers can’t get through the four-way stop quickly.

Roundabout: Whiteland is planning to build a roundabout, which will allow traffic to move through the intersection more quickly.

Costs: The county received approval for federal funding for the estimated $1.1 million project. Whiteland will get that federal funding, which will cover 80 percent of the construction costs.

Timeline: No timeline has been set for the project yet. The federal funds would need to be used by 2014, but Whiteland can apply for a time extension if needed.

Plans: The roundabout would relieve current traffic problems but also fit into Whiteland’s plans to make the Whiteland Road area between downtown and Interstate 65 into a business and industrial park.

The town hasn’t started planning or designing the estimated $1.1 million project yet and doesn’t have a timetable of when work might start, Whiteland town manager Dennis Capozzi said.

Officials also aren’t yet sure how the project would be paid for.

Eighty percent of the construction cost will be paid for with federal grant dollars. But the estimated $220,000 match and extra expenses for engineering expenses and the costs to buy property will have to be paid by the town. Whiteland hasn’t determined where that money will come from yet, Bilger said.

The federal grant dollars are supposed to be used by 2014, but Whiteland could apply for a time extension since it is now inheriting the project, Johnson County Highway Department director Luke Mastin said.

County officials said traffic backups have become more common over the years around rush hour as commuters try to get to and from I-65, Mastin said.

At certain times, westbound traffic can back up about a mile all the way to the interstate off-ramp, county engineer Mike Pelham said. Bilger hasn’t seen cars back up that far but did say it can take several minutes before drivers get through the intersection.

A portion of the traffic at the intersection is truck traffic coming from Franklin’s industrial park south on Graham Road. Semitrailers often use Graham and Whiteland roads to get to I-65, because that is easier to navigate than traveling through Franklin to reach the interstate, Mastin said.

Traffic moves slowest through intersections controlled by stop signs, while roundabouts allow drivers to get through an intersection the fastest, Mastin said.

Every driver has to stop at a four-way stop, and at times only one car may be in the intersection at a time. With a roundabout, vehicles can enter from all four directions at the same time if there is room and continue moving while in the roundabout, which allows for more efficient traffic flow.

The intersection of Morgantown and Fairview roads in the Center Grove area previously had a four-way stop that officials decided was no longer the best fit for the intersection, Mastin said. Drivers would get backed up at the heavily-traveled intersection. The roundabout that was installed there has since allowed more cars to move through the intersection and reduced traffic jams.

The county originally had considered either adding new turn lanes and a stoplight at the intersection of Whiteland and Graham roads or a roundabout, Mastin said.

The roundabout appears to be the best option to handle the most traffic and Whiteland plans to pursue that design, Capozzi said.

The town wants to attract new factories and office buildings around the interstate, similar to what Greenwood and Franklin have already done at their exits. Having a roundabout could help attract companies if it helps cut down on traffic backups on Whiteland Road, Bilger said.

“We’re trying to be somewhat progressive and use this project to spur that growth out there. It will alleviate what problems are there already and provide a road system that will be ready for future development,” Bilger said.

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