Roundabout to improve safety near Center Grove schools

Construction on a $2.1 million roundabout will divert traffic near Center Grove schools starting next week.

Construction crews will build the single-lane roundabout at the intersection of Stones Crossing Road and Saddle Club Road, just west of State Road 135 in White River Township. Work for the project will take place in two parts.

On Monday, weather permitting, crews will begin utility work, installing a new water main across both roads in preparation for the roundabout’s construction this summer. During that time, traffic will be diverted using State Road 135, Smokey Row Road and Morgantown Road.

Local traffic will be able to access Stones Crossing Road and Morgantown Road outside the construction area, and Willow Lakes residents will be able to access the subdivision on Stones Crossing Road using Willow Lake Drive and Willow Lakes Boulevard, as Water Way Road will be closed for construction, said Luke Mastin, the county’s highway director.

The roundabout will have three entrances: two from Stones Crossing Road and one from Saddle Club Road. Willow Lakes residents will have an entrance directly to the east of the roundabout via Water Way Drive once it opens, according to a project illustration.

The water main installation should last about a week, and it was timed to be completed during spring break for Center Grove, so it doesn’t affect traffic to nearby Center Grove High School, Center Grove Elementary School and Middle School Central, Mastin said.

Construction on the roundabout itself will take place in June and July as students are on their summer break. Graduation traffic will be affected by the closure, as the full summer break is necessary to get the work done by the time students return to school in August, he said.

“The intersection itself has been prone to accidents and some of them were severe due to a combination of steep grade on Saddle Club Road coming into Stones Crossing Road and the traffic volume, with vehicles needing to stop traffic to turn left onto Saddle Club Road,” Mastin said.

Johnson County Highway Department officials conducted a traffic study, which indicated intersection improvements were needed, he said.

“I think everyone knew that, but the study confirmed our suspicions and provided the support to submit for a federal funding application and get federal dollars to help get the intersection reconstructed and redesigned,” Mastin said.

Although the study was conducted in 2017, it took until this year to get to the point of construction because funding was approved for a specific federal funding cycle. Another factor is that there is a lengthy process to design a roundabout, he said.

“Road and bridge construction projects on their own require some time to design,” Mastin said. “There are quite a few steps we have to go through. Design guidelines have to be followed in order to reach the point of having the final set of construction plans and be ready to bid the project. The amount of effort needed in the design phase alone can take a few years.”

Once the roundabout is completed, it will make driving on Stones Crossing Road much safer and easier, he said.

“It will be a significant improvement that drivers will notice immediately,” Mastin said. “The risk of T-bone accidents for turning vehicles goes away and east-west traffic on Stones Crossing Road will go much more smoothly without having to stop for turning vehicles.”