Expect construction to start this year on a major east-west road project that Greenwood has been planning for years.
The Greenwood City Council unanimously approved borrowing about $30 million to build an interstate interchange at Worthsville Road and widen the street to handle the increased traffic. The approval is the final one needed before construction can begin on a project that’s aimed at lessening congestion, spurring economic development and building a major east-west route that’s been talked about for decades.
Work could start as soon as this spring, Mayor Mark Myers said. The project is part of an east-west corridor that’s supposed to move traffic faster across Johnson County and eventually connect with roads in Morgan and Shelby counties.
Making Worthsville Road a gateway into southern Greenwood will be one of the biggest and most expensive road projects in city history. City officials hope that it will pay off by helping to attract business parks and other high-end development and by opening up more of the city’s southeast side to development.
Greenwood plans to borrow about $20 million to widen Worthsville Road to four lanes between U.S. 31 and Interstate 65. The revamped road will include a raised median and an intermittent center turn lane, trails and a roundabout at the Sheek Road intersection.
The city will borrow another $10 million to pay for its share of a Worthsville Road interchange on I-65. The state also will contribute up to $10 million for that project, which is expected to start in 2014.
Construction on the first phase of the project — widening the road between U.S. 31 and Sheek Road — is expected to start by May. That portion of Worthsville Road will be impassable for nearly the rest of the year, community development services director Mark Richards said.
The road will be closed at the Louisville and Indiana Railroad tracks. People who live, go to church or work in businesses along the road will be allowed in, but traffic passing through the area won’t be able to take that route, Richards said.
Drivers should take Stop 18 Road as an alternate route between U.S. 31 and Sheek Road, he said.
The widening project will continue in 2014, but Worthsville Road likely won’t need to be closed next year, Richards said.
Construction on both the road widening and the interchange are expected to be finished by the end of 2014. The finished products would make surrounding farmland ripe for development, and Myers wants to see high-quality development, such as offices and medical facilities.
Myers hopes to lure corporate headquarters and good-paying jobs to what’s now a mostly rural area on Greenwood’s southeastern fringe.
First, Greenwood must transform Worthsville Road from a narrow, two-lane country road into a four-lane thoroughfare in order to accommodate the extra traffic that is expected, city attorney Krista Taggart said. The goal is to widen that road before the interchange is finished, so that drivers can move quickly to and from the interstate.
Between I-65 and U.S. 31, the road currently is lined with houses, churches, the Endress+Hauser corporate campus, two Clark-Pleasant schools and an abandoned concrete plant.
A widened Worthsville Road would offer commuters another alternative, and that would lessen traffic on Sheek Road and Main Street, city council member Thom Hord said. A third exit in Greenwood is expected to improve congestion and safety at the Main Street interchange, since Center Grove-area, Whiteland and New Whiteland residents won’t have to go all the way to Main Street to get on the interstate.
The Indiana Department of Transportation has been working on an environmental study that will gauge the impact of a new interchange and could have a public hearing as soon as this month, spokesman Greg Prince said.
The state agreed to pay half of the interchange’s cost, which is estimated to total $20 million to $22 million. Greenwood will pay the other half and also fund the road widening project with loans.
The city plans to repay the loans with money from tax-increment financing districts that collect property tax dollars from new development in specific areas and channel them into road and other infrastructure projects. That money also has gone toward widening Graham Road, Emerson Avenue and Fry Road.
Contractors should be able to bid on the Worthsville Road widening project as soon as April, Myers said.
Workers first will widen Worthsville Road between U.S. 31 and Sheek Road, and that work is expected to be completed by the end of the year. They also will start to build a roundabout at Sheek and Worthsville Roads.
In 2014, they’ll finish the roundabout and the last stretch of Worthsville between Sheek Road and I-65.
The 1.5-mile widening project should be complete by late summer 2014, if weather permits, Richards said. The projects are timed so that the road will be widened before the new interchange will be finished.
Long term, the city plans to widen Worthsville Road east to County Road 325E in Clark Township and further west to State Road 135.
Drivers eventually would be able to take a four-lane or super two-lane thoroughfare between the new I-65 interchange, State Road 37 and Interstate 74 in Shelby County.