I-40 workover should help accident area
What’s been referred to as “Malfunction Junction” should be a thing of the past when Clinton’s new Exit 65 interchange is completed, it was indicated at Thursday’s public meeting where proposed plans were unveiled.
Basically, the plans call for elimination of Red Wheat Drive, which is the service road leading to four businesses on the west side of Gary Boulevard. Instead of the service road, most of the businesses would have their own driveways running directly off and to Gary.
The businesses are Kmart, Braum’s, Long John Silver’s, and McDonald’s.
With elimination of Red Wheat Drive, there’ll be a more conventional four-armed crossing where Oliver Avenue intersects Gary from the west and Lexington Avenue from the east.
In the past there have been many accidents at that spot, with drivers on Oliver and Lexington competing with those coming off and going to Interstate 40. While Gary would be extended south to Chapman Road, it no longer would be handling higher-speed traffic exiting I-40 from both the east and the west. Instead, that traffic will be funneled through one of two roundabouts (there’ll be one on each side of the interstate) where it will be slowed.
Also, the westbound Gary on-ramp onto I-40 will be eliminated, meaning there should be no more confusion about whether cars coming off Gary are getting onto the interstate or going to one of the businesses on its west side. In the past paths have been worn across a deep drainage ditch by drivers who thought they were going to one of the businesses but suddenly realized they were headed for I-40 so they just cut across the ditch.
Assuming the plans presented Thursday are adopted, motorists wanting to go west on I-40 from Gary will have to turn left onto the north frontage road and drive east past the Hampton Inn to a roundabout that will feed them onto the interstate westbound.
Red Wheat would be eliminated in its entirety, meaning it would no longer wind around the south side of Kmart and eventually feed motorists onto S. 28th Street.
Also being proposed for elimination is the eastbound exit ramp off I-40 at that location. If present plans are adopted, motorists coming from the west would have to drive above the new Gary Boulevard, then take the next exit ramp and go through a roundabout where they would have numerous options including getting onto a service road that would take them back to Gary. That way they could get to Kmart, Braum’s or any of the other businesses in that area, or they could go on into the main part of town just as they do now.
ODOT’s Division 5 engineer, Brent Almquist of Clinton, told a crowd of more than 80 who attended Thursday night’s meeting that he initially had reservations about the new proposal from Gar-ver, LLC, an Arkansas engineering company selected to design and oversee construction of the I-40 renovations.
But after examining the proposal in detail, he said in his opinion “Garver has done a great job” and added, “It gives us an eastbound onramp, and we’ll have four interchanges (the same as now, counting those at U.S. Highway 183 and at the east edge of town).”
Almquist begged listeners at Thursday night’s meeting to be patient. He added, “It takes a while for it to sink in. It’s really a unique concept.”