TERRE HAUTE —
Spring has arrived, and with it comes the season of orange traffic cones, heavy construction equipment, lane restrictions, ramp closures and travel delays.
Beginning April 1, the Indiana Department of Transportation will start work on Interstate 70 and U.S. 40 through Vigo and Clay counties. The projects include road resurfacing and bridge work.
The two routes are vital thoroughfares for Terre Haute travelers, especially those heading to and from the state capital.
“I was actually hoping for a summer off of these detours,” said Charlie Williams, president of Williams Randall Marketing in Terre Haute, who travels I-70 to Indianapolis at least four days a week.
INDOT will start work on I-70 about 1.5 mile east of the Illinois line, continuing to just west of the Wabash River bridge. The interstate will be restricted to the driving lane for both eastbound and westbound traffic as road crews start installing a temporary concrete barrier wall and traffic crossovers.
That barrier work, expected to last two weeks, weather permitting, is part of preparation for a project spanning a year and a half, when decking will be replaced on bridges over Sugar Creek and Clear Creek, said Debbie Calder, INDOT spokeswoman.
“Traffic will then be shifted into one lane in each direction on I-70 westbound, and restricted to 12 feet by April 15, so work can begin on the eastbound interstate bridges over Sugar Creek and Clear Creek,” she said.
That project is scheduled for completion Oct. 15, 2015. HIS Constructors Inc. was awarded the $7 million bridge deck replacement project.
Travelers also will encounter road work near Old U.S. 40 and I-70. INDOT will seek bids April 2 — with lane restrictions and construction slated for June — to resurface the 1-70 eastbound exit ramp at Old U.S. 40 along with a bridge deck overlay project over westbound I-70. A bridge replacement project is to be done over Clear Creek for eastbound and westbound lanes on Old U.S. 40, and a bridge deck overlay project for eastbound and westbound lanes over Sugar Creek.
Moving east along the interstate, INDOT will finish a patch and resurfacing project on I-70 from just east of the Wabash River to just west of U.S.40/Indiana 46. This will restrict the westbound passing lane on I-70 from the 5.5 mile marker to the 8 mile marker, or 8 miles east of the Illinois border.
INDOT will also work on the intersection of I-70 and U.S. 41 — the site of several vehicle accidents last year — where exit and entrance ramps will be repaved at night to increase safety.
“The ramps will be closed at night, to minimize the impacts to the traveling public,” Calder said. “Most of the work will be from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.”
Motorists won’t have to deal with bridge work at that intersection this year. INDOT won’t seek bids until October for bridge widening and deck replacement on the eastbound and westbound bridge on I-70 over U.S. 41. It will also seek a bid this fall for the same work on bridges over Thompson Ditch and a railroad.
“By the time the bids are awarded, that work will not likely start until 2015,” Calder said.
Northbound and southbound drivers traveling U.S. 41 through the south side of Terre Haute will encounter construction as well. INDOT plans to improve the intersections of U.S. 41 at Johnson Drive and at U.S. 41 at Davis Drive, in the area of Honey Creek Mall. The project will add an additional through lane southbound from Johnson Drive to Davis Drive.
“This project also adds left turn lanes for both northbound and southbound traffic at Davis Drive,” Calder said. U.S. 41 “will be resurfaced and a center curb will be added along the length of this project,” she said.
Construction is slated to start on or after May 1 and be completed by Aug. 31. The $2.3 million project was awarded to Wabash Valley Asphalt Inc.
I-70 through Clay County
Williams, the Terre Haute businessman, said he often uses Indiana 59 to get around traffic congestion, both on U.S. 40 and I-70, by cutting over to Indiana 42 to Cloverdale, before getting back on I-70 or U.S. 40. It’s the roadwork here, Williams said, that has him concerned.
INDOT will resurface I-70, starting at Indiana 59 and going about 6 miles east for both eastbound and westbound lanes. Work includes a bridge deck overlay project at the I-70-Indiana 59 bridge, Calder said. Lane restrictions will start on or after May 1, with completion by Sept. 30.
“This contract also includes resurfacing the [Indiana] 59 westbound off ramp and the eastbound on ramp,” Calder said.
Rieth Riley Construction was awarded a $9.3 million contract for this work.
“This area could be a problem,” Williams said. “However, I drive with an iPhone and use a maps app that allows me to see where traffic is stopped. It helps me to avoid sitting out here for a half-hour or an hour. I will just look for alternative routes.”
Other drivers also are concerned about the travel ahead.
“With all this work, it’s going to be very difficult,” said Terre Haute resident Pramila Fernandes, who drives once a week on the interstate to Carmel, where she works as a paralegal for House, Reynolds & Faust. “If there is an accident or any sort of mishap on Interstate 70, you will be stuck if you don’t have an exit off to U.S. 40. And with U.S. 40 to be under construction, it will be really difficult to travel from this end of the state to Indianapolis.”
Fernandes said she may have to take Indiana 42 as an alternative route. “I may be delayed the first few times until I get an idea of where the construction is, then I will have to start to look for alternative routes,” she said.
While Fernandes said she, too, has a smartphone to seek an alternative route, “not everybody has a smartphone. Since the construction on U.S. 40 is just in Brazil, it may not be too bad. It’s all really going to be just trial and error at first. It’s already an hour-and-a-half drive for me to Carmel, so I am not looking forward to any further delay.”
The work on U.S. 40 in Brazil is a $19.7 million project awarded to Gradex Inc., which will replace the asphalt pavement on U.S. 40 from Indiana 340 west of Brazil to the Walmart on Brazil’s east side. Work will also include a short portion of Indiana 340 to the Waterworks and for about one block north and south of U.S. 40 on Indiana 59.
The project will include new curbs and gutters to improve drainage and new sidewalks that meet ADA requirements. In addition, the intersection of U.S. 40 and 340 will be converted to a “T” intersection.
The work in Brazil is schedule to be completed by Nov. 15, 2015.
Calder acknowledged INDOT’s concern over simultaneous lane retractions on I-70 and U.S. 40 because traffic is usually detoured to U.S. 40 when accidents clog the interstate.
“We have an incident management meeting on April 10 with Vigo and Clay County officials. We will talk about the project … and talk about getting feedback to come up with an incident plan,” Calder said.
INDOT engineers, she said, are already in contact with highway officials in Illinois, hoping they can use message boards along eastbound I-70 to alert motorists to traffic trouble ahead.
“That way [motorists] in Illinois can take an alternative route and help reduce any back up” in traffic in Indiana, Calder said.
Patrick Barcus, who commutes daily from Greencastle to Indiana State University, where he is an English instructor, said the road repairs will directly impact his travel.
“It will certainly impact the time I have to leave for work and extend the time to get home from work,” he said. His daily commute could be extended by 20-30 minutes. But Barcus did express optimism in looking ahead.
“It is like all things, this too will pass, and is just something I will have to get used to,” he said. “I don’t think it will be as bad in the summer, as there is less traffic to the university and less school bus traffic and things of that nature in the morning.”
T.J. Wills is a doctoral psychology student at ISU. He travels both I-70 and U.S. 40, heading to class from his Greencastle home and to work in Cloverdale. Road construction makes his travel choices less difficult.
“When they start work on I-70, I take U.S. 40,” he said. “I am more comfortable on U.S. 40 during the construction season.”
Like other drivers, Wills said he will look for alternate routes to travel, including U.S. 36 when driving from Greencastle as alternative route to Terre Haute.
“This will put a crimp on my style, cause me a little heartache, a little headache and maybe a little money just adding miles to drive under experimentation,” he said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.