Traffic on I-70 makes its way east toward the Greenfield exit. The city's thoroughfare plan envisions an interchange at approximately County Road 100W, three miles west of the interchange at State Road 9. Staff photo by Tom Russo
Traffic on I-70 makes its way east toward the Greenfield exit. The city's thoroughfare plan envisions an interchange at approximately County Road 100W, three miles west of the interchange at State Road 9. Staff photo by Tom Russo
HANCOCK COUNTY — Interstate 70 crosses Hancock County, stretching 19 miles between its western and eastern borders. Yet only two interchanges offer access to main roads in the county.

As the county continues to grow, officials would like to change that by adding an interchange between existing ones at State Road 9 in Greenfield and Mt. Comfort Road in the western part of the county. It would take a lot of planning, a lot of money and a lot of cooperation among different levels of government.

The thoroughfare plan Greenfield officials recently adopted is filled with projects that promote connectivity. It does not guarantee the construction of specific roads, but rather outlines the city’s goals to be more navigable and less congested.

The plan, which includes a top-20 list of projects, identifies a potential new I-70 interchange as so impactful that it splits that list into two possibilities — one for if the interchange is accomplished and one for if it is not.

Greenfield’s thoroughfare plan suggests placing the interchange in the vicinity of County Road 100W and states it would relieve congestion as well as safety issues along State Road 9.

Jason Koch, Greenfield city engineer, said the possible placement also has to do with economic development. He referred to the spike in businesses moving in along Mt. Comfort Road, the only other road in the county with an I-70 interchange.

“We know that Mt. Comfort is starting to explode,” Koch said. “And there are no other interchanges between Mt. Comfort Road and State Road 9. We have a good feeling that there’ll be another one put in somewhere in between Mt. Comfort Road and State Road 9 sometime in the future. So we’re trying to help guide the powers that be, whether federal highway, or INDOT (Indiana Department of Transportation) — all the team players that need to have a say — we’re trying to lead them to put the interchange as close to Greenfield as possible.”

There are plenty of parcels ripe for development and prime for industrial uses in the vicinity of 100W that can be easily served by utilities, Koch said.

“We want to attract that same economic development to Greenfield, to the northwest side there,” he said.

Koch said the city’s thoroughfare plan suggests 100W for the general area of the interchange because it’s two miles from State Road 9, a minimum distance required by federal highway rules between interchanges.

Leaders would have to determine how to connect the interchange with northbound and southbound routes that tie back into State Road 9 north and south of town, creating a “nice grid of connectivity,” Koch said.

The thoroughfare plan suggests the creation of a route that would also upgrade existing roads connecting the interchange to New Road, McKenzie Road, U.S. 40 and south State Road 9. North of I-70, the plan proposes connecting the interchange to County Road 300N.

“The Alternate Route would be designed to accommodate commercial truck traffic and draw trucks away from the historic downtown area, along with relieving congestion on S.R. 9,” according to the plan.

Koch said it’s too early to say exactly what the interchange would look like, but he imagines it could be similar to the diamond-shaped one at State Road 9.

Accomplishing it would be a large task, he continued, adding it would require involvement with Hancock County, the state of Indiana, the Federal Highway Administration and the area’s representatives in Congress. There would be studies, analyses, cost and benefit estimates and preliminary plans to explain thoughts and ideas to stakeholders, Koch also said.

The thoroughfare plan estimates the interchange alone would cost about $38 million.

Mallory Duncan, an INDOT spokeswoman, told the Daily Reporter in an email that INDOT monitors operational performance, condition, capacity and safety performance of the interstate system when considering interchanges or any change to infrastructure.

“New interchanges are occasionally considered for funding, development and construction when there are indications that conditions have or will degrade in the near future to unacceptable performance or levels of service at a nearby existing interchange,” Duncan said.

The state has no current plans for a new interchange on I-70 in Hancock County.

“Right now, we do not have the funding at this time,” Duncan said. “We will consider pursuing this or other options if circumstances change.”

New and modified access points on the interstate system — like the recent ones on I-69 at 106th street in Hamilton County, I-65 at Worthsville Road in Johnson County and the upcoming interchange at I-65 and Boone County Road 550S — must be evaluated for feasibility and operational acceptability according to Federal Highway Administration interstate access policy, Duncan continued. Key points of that process include proving the new access point doesn’t harm the interstate system and that it will benefit the existing state roadway network.

Gary Pool, Hancock County engineer, said the county supports a new interchange on I-70 between Mt. Comfort and Greenfield.

“We agree with the need for it,” he said.

However, the county would like to see it at County Road 200W, Pool continued, as it’s equidistant between the State Road 9 and Mt. Comfort Road interchanges. County Road 200W also already offers straight shots north and south. Southward, it connects to U.S. 40 and U.S. 52. Northward, it heads to 600N before resuming slightly to the west and connecting with State Road 234, then Fortville Pike farther north.

County Road 100 has less existing connectivity, Pool said.

“It would take a lot of infrastructure to make that functional,” he added.

Additionally, 100W doesn’t have a bridge over I-70, and 200W does, Pool said.

But the location isn’t a deal-breaker. Pool said if an interchange at 200W doesn’t happen, he’d back one near 100W.

“I would absolutely support Greenfield,” he said. “They’re our neighbors and they’re good partners.”

Pool said Hancock County would also eventually like to see an I-70 interchange at 600E, halfway between ones at State Road 9 in Greenfield and State Road 109 in Henry County.

I-70 has three exits in Henry County.

“Hancock County only has two, and we’re growing by leaps and bounds,” said Randy Sorrell, executive director of the Hancock Economic Development Council.

He thinks more I-70 interchanges in Hancock County would not only be good for economic development, but travelers at large.

“We need more interstate access just for the sheer commuting traffic,” he said. “Will it drive economic development? Sure, but the whole county is invested in this discussion.”

Data on commuting patterns compiled by Stats Indiana at Indiana University shows that more than 29,000 people commute to and from Hancock County to go to work. That is nearly half of the county’s workforce.

Sorrell pointed to how Indianapolis’ growth pattern has been “from the core out,” spreading east and north.

“It just radiates out, and so definitely somewhere between Mt. Comfort and Greenfield, there needs to be an interchange,” he said.

It’s a discussion of “where,” not “if,” he continued.

“Because now’s the time,” he said. “You wait another 20, 30 years and everything will be urbanized, and there’ll be no way to fit it in.”
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