GREENFIELD — After a day of work at the Hancock Regional Hospital surgery center, Andrea Harris just wants to get home, relax, make dinner and settle in for the night. She doesn’t want to sit in traffic. After all, she works in her home county, and it shouldn’t take long to get home.
Her commute from Greenfield to the Maxwell area, which should take 10 to 15 minutes, lasts about 45 minutes each day after she waits in traffic at a busy Maxwell intersection.
About 4:30 each weekday afternoon, northbound traffic headed out of Greenfield on State Road 9 slows at the intersection with State Road 234.
Residents say the four- way stop leads to traffic congestion that sometimes backs up for miles.
County officials say something must be done to improve traffic flow and have asked the Indiana Department of Transportation to conduct a study of the area to help them understand what traffic control devices might alleviate the problem.
Harris meets the congestion at County Road 700N, about two miles south of the intersection. She knows once she gets there, it’s a waiting game, full of stopping and going.
Harris, who lives 2 miles north of the intersection, gets off work at 5 p.m. and sometimes doesn’t make it in the front door until 5:45 or 6 p.m.; meaning it takes her up to an hour to drive about 10 miles.
That’s frustrating, she said, and she wishes officials would consider a stoplight at the intersection, which would improve traffic flow.
Hancock County Commissioner Tom Stevens lives near the busy intersection and said some days it backs up as far as a mile during rush hour. The traffic is inconvenient to commuters and folks living in the area heading into Greenfield, he said.
There has to be a better solution than a four-way stop with stop signs and flashers, he said, so at a recent county commissioners meeting, he asked county highway engineer Gary Pool to ask INDOT to study traffic patterns at the intersection.
According to INDOT figures from 2011 — the most recent data available — an average of 8,000 cars travel on State Road 9 near the intersection each day; about 2,000 travel on State Road 234.
The traffic backup inconveniences not only commuters passing through the area but residents who live near the intersection. They say they can’t make it out of their driveways during rush hour.
Harris said occasional accidents during rush hour add to the delay.
“I don’t want to wait, dang it; I just want to get home,” she said. “I don’t want to sit and fight traffic for 45 minutes.”
Stevens lives about three-quarters of a mile south of the intersection, and he regularly sees vehicles waiting in the stop-and-start line.
“It’s currently a four-way stop. In my opinion, it’s not working effectively,” he said.
Because two state roads meet at the intersection, the county has no authority to make changes. Any changes in traffic control would have to come from INDOT.
Officials say a stoplight or roundabout would help move traffic through, but those changes can be expensive, and state departments face the same funding constraints as local government.
Stevens hopes INDOT will at least study the intersection to see if a change in traffic control is warranted.
“We’re in a position where we can notice problems and share that with the state,” he said. “… I would definitely like to see improvements made.”
DeeDee Couch has lived near the intersection for about four years, and any time she wants to leave the house during rush hour, she prepares to sit in her driveway for a while, hoping a driver will be gracious enough to let her through.
It’s a frustrating problem and can cause a dangerous driving situation for people in the area, she said. She often hears squealing tires and has seen several serious accidents at the intersection during rush hour.
“It’s kind of scary,” she said. “(A stoplight) would be wonderful.”
Though the intersection is busy, it doesn’t see a significant number of accidents for the amount of traffic traveling through, Pool said.
He plans to work with INDOT to see if officials there are aware of the backup and if they’ll study it. It’s not necessarily a safety issue as much as it is inconvenient, he said.
Hancock County Sheriff’s Lt. Donnie Munden agreed, saying the intersection gets congested but is no worse than other busy intersections in the area.
“It’s just all volume,” he said. “You can go through there at 7 any day and get right through, and if you get there at 7:10, you’re backed up 20 cars.”
Representatives for INDOT could not be reached for comment.