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November 20, 2013

REINHARDT: Planned interchange should be studied

— The current design for the new Ind. 62, Ind. 265 and Port Road interchange includes the addition of three roundabouts to handle traffic flow and control.

This new interchange will surely need traffic control devices, but I am not sure roundabouts are the way to go. The engineers responsible for this design tout roundabouts as the way to handle large volumes of traffic with no stop signs. They pointed to other roundabouts built all over the country in recent years. I could find no example of use of a roundabout as an interchange for an interstate freeway and divided four lane state highway.

Do roundabouts work? They certainly do, if used in the right design mix of intersecting roads and traffic counts. Will these three roundabout design work at the five points intersection of Ind. 265, Ind. 62 and Port Road? I seriously doubt it.

This is not a straightforward intersection of two major highways. There are two complicating factors, one being the aforementioned Port Road, making it a five-direction interchange and the second being the rail line which runs through it.

This new plan does nothing to address these two special issues. This is important because when there is a train on the tracks across Ind. 62 at rush hour, traffic is going to back up on Ind. 265 at times. In-lane storage for backed up traffic is planned but I seriously doubt that these storage plans will work when you have rush hour traffic counts, a train that crosses Ind. 62 and stops for five minutes and southwest bound Ind. 62 is totally stopped because the ramp over the rail line has been eliminated and this traffic funneled into the roundabout. Since traffic for all three directions is funneled through the roundabout, northeast on Ind. 62 will slow or stop as will through traffic to Port Road. Exiting traffic in all directions will be negatively impacted.

There are alternatives, and I really think the design engineers should take another look at this plan. The rail line could be dropped below grade from the approach to Ind. 62 to past the new Ind. 265 interchange and possibly past the Utica-Sellersburg Road rail crossing just down the road a bit or even as far North as Salem Noble Road (two looming traffic issues).

Port Road access could be modified to eliminate the Ind. 265 access via this interchange. Part of the total Indiana improvements include a new interchange between Ind. 62 and the new Ohio River bridge at Salem Noble Road north of the Town of Utica. Port traffic could be routed to this interchange as there are plans for a new road connecting Ind. 265 and Ind. 62 through River Ridge Commerce Center and connecting Middle Road to the west. This new heavy-haul road, as it is being called, will be the new main entrance to the commerce center. Why not make this same interchange the main entrance to the Indiana Port as well? The North termination of Port Road could still provide local access to Ind. 62 with a little creative rerouting.

Another possible enhancement would be to go ahead and improve Ind. 62 to six lanes in the area of the interchange, and possibly all the way out to Salem Noble Road. With the recent, and almost certain continued success of River Ridge Commerce Center, traffic counts are going to continue to increase along Ind. 62. Along with increased semi and employee traffic, there will be increased housing demands and a general increase in commerce along this corridor.

The design engineers explained that they have accounted for this in their design, and they stated the addition of the interchange down the road — the new Salem-Noble Interchange between Ind. 62 and the new bridge — will handle any increase in traffic count. The new interchange will certainly relieve traffic a bit in the near term, but the commerce center is early on in its development, with only several hundred acres developed (and even fewer in use) of several thousands of acres of planned development.

The area along Ind. 62 from Holmans/Allison Lane will likely fill in with commercial and housing. We are already seeing that trend on both sides of Ind. 265, and this will continue along Ind. 62 across from the commerce center from Ind. 265 Northeast toward Charlestown. We are always 20 years behind in road-building in this area; this interchange will likely be obsolete from the start. We have about 5,000 employees at the commerce center right now; what happens when that goes to 10,000 or 20,000?

The bridges project engineers need to take a hard look at this design and see if the current configuration is in fact the best design for this stretch of highways for the next 10 years or so. Will some of these changes cost more money? Certainly, but I doubt that they will come close to the hundreds of millions they are spending on the Kentucky side for tunnels.

If we can spend hundreds of millions to relocate the entire freeway underground to preserve one property owner’s state of historical aesthetic appeal, we can surely spend several million more to make this Indiana interchange work better for the thousands of motorists who will drive these highways every day.

— David Reinhardt, Jeffersonville, Clark County treasurer

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