By BRADEN LAMMERS
Traffic that is expected to pass through the region once an expanded downtown corridor and a new east-end bridge are complete has Jeffersonville officials eyeing a strategy to improve other roadways.
Mayor Mike Moore held a news conference Wednesday to request the state’s assistance in reconstructing the intersection of Ind. 62 and Utica-Sellersburg Road, an increasingly congested area. In addition to a request to improve the intersection, Moore asked the state to lower the speed limit through the area — just beyond the interchange with Interstate 265 — from 55 mph to 45 mph.
“This intersection, when it was developed 10 years ago, we didn’t have near this volume [of cars],” Moore said. “We didn’t have all of these homes out here, we didn’t have River Ridge busting at the seams.”
The area is already posing some headaches for commuters and traffic congestion is only expected to worsen once the Ohio River Bridges Project is complete.
Moore did not present any formal plans to address the situation. Will Wingfield, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman, said that INDOT did receive a request to conduct a traffic study two weeks ago from state Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville.
However, INDOT has not received any specific requests from Jeffersonville on how to make improvements to the intersection. Wingfield said that traffic studies normally take several weeks to complete and even if a project is outlined, it would still have to go through the project-development process.
Wingfield said the state controls Ind. 62 north of the interchange with I-265. South of the interchange the city of Jeffersonville has control of the roadway, which is known as Tenth Street.
Since Ind. 62 is controlled by Indiana, the state’s assistance would be required to make changes to the intersection.
“We need the state’s help in making it safer for our commuters,” Moore said. “This intersection was good 10 years ago. It’s not efficient anymore,” he said later in the press conference.
Moore also pledged the city’s support in helping to pay for the improvements that are deemed necessary.
“It’s worth our while as a city to help,” he said. He added that the city will do “whatever it takes” to help move the project forward, but there are no estimates on the cost to improve the roadways.
“It’s not going to be cheap,” Moore said.
The need to make changes to the roadway was brought up at a board of public works meeting two weeks earlier and at the time there was some debate about who controlled the roadway.
Matt Keller, owner of Keller Lighting, located near the corner of Ind. 62 and Utica-Sellersburg Road, voiced his concerns about the road and the speeds that vehicles are traveling up and down Ind. 62.
“Someone’s going to get killed on Utica-Sellersburg Road,” he said at the meeting. “The intersection is terrible.”
Whatever the traffic count is for the intersection now, it is likely to change with River Ridge Commerce Center’s continued development and with the opening of the east-end bridge in 2016.
“This highway was built when there was farmland and very little commercial and residential development,” Moore said. “We need to fix the problem to make sure the thoroughfare to get to River Ridge is acceptable to all the trucks and cars that go out that way and also the families that go to their homes every day.”
Moore said the road is accessed by nearly 300 homes to the west and another 400 from the east. That does not include the additional traffic generated from River Ridge, farther north on Ind. 62.
“River Ridge is only at 6 percent capacity,” Moore said. “Let’s make sure we’re fixing a problem that’s not [just] going to fix the situation right now, but that’s going to fix the situation for the next 20 years.”
As a result of the additional traffic, drivers are finding alternate routes. Moore said the city is getting complaints that traffic is spilling over onto side streets like Utica Pike and Middle Road, causing congestion in those areas.
Despite a number of unknowns, including specific changes to the intersection and cost, Moore said River Ridge and Jeffersonville have a willingness to pitch in to pay for the road improvements.
River Ridge Executive Director Jerry Acy said there have been some informal discussions about the intersection, but nothing has been decided and nothing has been presented to the River Ridge Development Authority Board.
“We’re at the mercy of the state stepping up and helping us. We’re confident they’re going to do that,” Moore said.
Clark County, Jeffersonville, River Ridge and the state all pledged money to make improvements at Ind. 62 and Salem-Noble Road. The total costs for the project to add turn lanes and signals to the intersection was $3.2 million.
Moore estimated that the improvements to Utica-Sellersburg Road will cost more than those made to the Salem-Noble Road