JEFFERSONVILLE — A new roadway is set to have a major effect on traffic flow in Southern Indiana.
City and project officials gathered near New Middle Road to break ground on the thoroughfare, which is set to open to traffic by the end of 2021 with a price tag of $14.5 million. It will connect the expanding River Ridge Commerce Center to the Ports of Indiana.
While a new road itself is often worthy of celebration, this one comes with special attributes. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has designated the yet-to-be-named route a heavy haul corridor, meaning it will bring convenience and stronger infrastructure to the transportation of large equipment.
The obvious benefit of the road, as evidenced by its name, is its ability to carry up to 134,000 pounds.
"The durability of the pavement that's being subjected to a heavier load isn't going to degrade quicker," said engineer Chris Pope, vice president of United Consulting.
Pope added that it will allow tractor-trailers to transport oversized or overweight cargo without a middleman.
"If you were moving freight from the Port to River Ridge, they could do that on this heavy haul road without a permit," he said.
Without the heavy haul road, many of those tractor-trailers would continue to take Interstate 265 and other local roads, thus requiring permits. Those permits often come with a fee, meaning companies will be able to save money.
Jerry Acy, executive director of River Ridge, said he is excited about that factor, as it makes River Ridge a more attractive potential site for companies looking to move to the location. After all, he said, roughly 70 percent of the property — upwards of 3,000 acres — has yet to be developed.
"The access between River Ridge and the Port gives us more options and opportunities to get companies up to River Ridge," he said. "Having that direct connection and the heavy haul status means you can take oversized loads across the road without getting permits or paying a fee. That's a real benefit to have that designated by INDOT."
Though industry players will see the immediate impact of the corridor, Mayor Mike Moore said quality of life improvements will also be extended to everyday citizens of Jeffersonville. The new roadway will shave several minutes off of commute times for those living in surrounding neighborhoods, as it will allow them to bypass the roundabouts on Highway 62 and cut directly to I-265.
For those who will continue to use the roundabouts, safety will be improved by decreasing the traffic flow of trucks.
"It's a safety concern," Moore said. "The heavy haul road deals directly with that problem. The semis that you see coming into the roundabout are pretty much headed to River Ridge or the Port. Once this is completed, probably 90 percent of those won't be in the roundabout anymore. They'll have direct access from this road."
Another indirect benefit of heavier trucks having a designated roadway will be a potential decrease in the amount of potholes seen on local roads.
"When you have heavier trucks, you're going to have more road repairs," Moore said. "This heavy haul road, its name says it all. It's being built to the specifications of the heavy weights of these semis."
According to Kathy Eaton-McKalip of INDOT, the benefits of the project stretch far beyond Jeffersonville and Clark County. Indiana ranks 11th in the country in the value of goods. By adding the heavy haul road, existing industrial traffic will be streamlined, which will then allow an increase in traffic to occur.
"This project is important, not just from a local standpoint, but from a state and national perspective as well," she said. "It's important for economic development. The [Indiana Economic Development Corporation] was a big player in this, because they realize the significance. It's a very significant project for a lot of different players."