Senior staff writer
It will be a bit easier going for motorists on South Emerson Avenue between Southport and County Line roads by 2023. A $10.1 million federal grant was announced last month during a press conference at Franciscan Health. The project will add a travel lane in each direction and sidewalks on each side of the road. Traffic has increased annually since St. Francis Hospital vacated its historic Beech Grove site to the South Campus in 2012.
Continuous hospital expansion, commercial growth south of the hospital and traffic from two nearby I-65 exits adds to today’s traffic bottlenecks. Public Works Director Dan Parker said the 3-mile stretch of road was on the city’s high priority list in seeking federal money through the eight-county Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said, “It’s more than lane widening. It’s really transformational for this area of our city and the Southside as a whole.”
Construction will be preceded by design plans for widening and land acquisition. Indianapolis must fund approximately $2.5 million, which is one-fifth of the cost. The first phase to improve Emerson between Stop 11 and Southport Crossing will begin next fall, the result of a previous $15 million federal grant.
Under separate authority, Greenwood is improving Emerson between County Line Road and Main Street, a 1.5-mile stretch. Improvements in Greenwood are being made with a multi-million construction program approved by the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission to raise decorative center medians and replace dangerous center turn lanes plus new traffic signals, trees, enhanced lighting and a multi-use trail.
The new medians will make it safer to make left-hand turns. Underway now, construction is causing long traffic jams north and south of County Line Road, particularly around Walmart. City officials hope the improvements lead to more development of 50 acres of available land for commercial development on Emerson. Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said the improvements will lead to “a more aesthetically pleasing experience” along the thoroughfare. Similar improvements are underway along Madison between Main Street and Pearl Street in Greenwood.