Mayoral candidates should focus on traffic problem

I really appreciate the article in the Friday, March 20, 2015, Daily Reporter, detailing the stands of the two candidates for mayor of Greenfield.

I look forward to future articles about other candidates in the upcoming primary races.

Both Mayor Fewell and mayoral hopeful Judy Swift spoke of downtown revitalization and how to make it happen. Both shared good ideas for revitalizing downtown Greenfield.

And both neglected a major piece that must be addressed in order for there to be any chance for Greenfield to have a viable and vibrant downtown.

Readers were directed to the proposed Greenfield Downtown Revitalization Plan. This is one of the best I have seen in the 26 years I have lived here.

I followed that direction. What I found reinforced my thoughts on what will cause any efforts to revitalize downtown to fail, unless the situation is addressed.

I am referring to the enormous amount of traffic on our two main downtown streets.

Alternatively referred to as State Road 9 or State Street and U.S. 40 or Main Street, these streets carry traffic that regularly chokes downtown streets.

According to one recent study by the Indiana Department of Transportation, this intersection sees some 24,000 vehicles daily. State Road 9 carries more than half of this traffic.

If we assume most of this traffic moves through this intersection during a 16-hour period of the normal business day, that means there are 1,500 vehicles passing through this area per hour.

As I noted, this revitalization plan report made several statements that indicated the need to solve the traffic issue as a part of any revitalization project.

On page 24 of the report, it stated “because of the extensive amount of truck traffic on U.S. 40 (Main Street) and State Road 9 (State Street), truck-related noise and structural compromise of historic buildings are a major concern.”

Also, “crossing U.S. 40 can be intimidating due to the volume of traffic and the expanse of roadway a person must cross.”

One person I have spoken who works near the intersection told me the nearly constant noise from trucks is a distraction. Anyone who attends the concerts on the plaza has noticed the sounds of the truck traffic competing with the music from performers.

And this is during the evening hours on a Friday.

It makes perfect sense why there is such an enormous amount of traffic on State Road 9. This is a primary corridor for traffic moving from Interstate 69 to Interstate 74.

For that traffic to go in to Indianapolis to use Interstate 465 would lengthen the time travelled extensively. Even with the stop-and-go traffic of a state highway, the shorter distance saves drivers considerable time.

There also is an inexplicable amount of oversize load traffic that passes through the intersection.

And many of these vehicles make a turn from south State Road 9 to west U.S. 40, and going the opposite direction. Making this turn often causes traffic to have to back up in order to allow the truck to get through, further snarling an already busy intersection.

When making the above noted turn, I have seen normal-sized trucks/trailers with the trailer far up on the sidewalk in front of the Creative Arts and Event Center.

I have seen pedestrians backed up against the recessed corner of the center to avoid being hit.

The revitalization plan did not offer an overall solution for the traffic problem.

I moved here with my family in 1989. From that point on, and likely before then, this has been an issue.

And there has never been a solution. Talk of a “bypass” has been squelched by the idea the state would not allow it. I have never understood this, as other communities have done similar things to relieve downtown traffic.

And with every passing year, as communities develop and fill in the landscape, a bypass becomes more difficult.

And yet, if Greenfield is to truly revitalize its downtown, we must get all but delivery trucks and most of the through traffic out of downtown.

It will take the vision of our next mayor. In fact, it will take the vision of our elected city, county and state officials to get this accomplished.

Without a plan to remove truck and excess car traffic off of State Road 9 and U.S. 40, we will be talking about downtown revitalization in another 20 years.

And the question becomes, will there be a downtown to revitalize?

Jim Matthews is a Greenfield resident. Send comments to