Friday, December 16, 1967. A day which, in Greenfield, must have seemed like an armageddon. According to the Greenfield Daily Reporter of the following day, that’s exactly what happened. But what happened? Governor Roger Branigin “apparently ordered the opening of the 18.5-mile stretch of Interstate 70 from Ind. 3 to Greenfield before State Highway Department traffic engineers were ready.”
The best part of the article is the opening paragraph. “Terrible! Impossible! Awful! It will ruin us in downtown Greenfield! Those dirty – – – – – – – – -! These are but a few and the more delicate descriptive phrases heard here.”
At that time, there were two north-south state roads into the north end of Greenfield. One is SR 9, which has an exit to Interstate 70. The other, depending on your location, is either Fortville Pike or Franklin Street. This was SR 13 at the time. Apparently, not only was there no bridge over I-70 at SR 13 at the time, there was also construction near US 40 and SR 13, as well. This causing some major traffic constipation along US 40 (Main St.), Broadway St., and McKenzie Road. Part of this was because the interstate just ended at SR 13, and westbound traffic was getting off of 70 at that point. Even though, as far as I can tell, there never was any plan to put an exit at SR 13.
“Traffic was backed up for several blocks on both Main and Broadway for a period late Friday afternoon.” Being December, and it usually being cold in Indiana at that time of the year, the two policemen posted to direct this onslaught of traffic spent four hours in the biting cold after the interstate was opened at 1500 (3 PM),
A few days over one year earlier, the State Highway Commission announced a public hearing “on a proposal to make Ind. 9 a dual-lane highway from the Greenfield city limits to the state road’s interchange at Interstate 70.” (Indianapolis Star, 14 December 1966) The mayor of Greenfield at the time states that making this road project “important for the community,” as the interchange “is the only entrance and exit to the new interstate highway between Indianapolis and Greenfield.”
This after the contract was let for a “7-mile stretch of Interstate 70 near Greenfield.” (Greenfield Daily Reporter, 28 April 1965) This 7-mile stretch included three bridges: SR 13 over I-70, SR 9 over I-70, and I-70 over Brandywine Creek. The contract stretched from .3 miles east of CR 200W to .5 miles west of CR 600E, which at the time was SR 209.
Between the contract, and the fact that SR 13 was never going to be accessible from I-70, it becomes clear that the traffic armageddon that occurred in Greenfield that day was caused by incomplete planning and a rash decision to open a highway that shouldn’t have been opened at that time. Another part of the problem was the intersection of Main and State Streets, also known as the junction of US 40 and SR 9. Highway engineers were still working on plans to alleviate congestion caused “when an estimated 13,000 vehicles daily may attempt to make turns at State and Main.” (Greenfield Daily Reporter, 10 October 1967) The article that day mentions that the newspaper still believes that there will be an exit at SR 13. (“It was estimated that about a third of the westbound motorists would use the Ind. 13 exit.”) The Indianapolis Star, and the Mayor of Greenfield, both knew better. Why did the Daily Reporter miss this very important point?
The article does mention, as well, that opening this stretch of 70 “would throw the heavy traffic which now clogs 54-foot-wide Main St. onto 29-foot-wide State Street.”
The Highway Department’s Greenfield District engineer, K. C. Cawood, “reminded the councilmen that the traffic problem will be a temporary one lasting only about a year.” The section from SR 9 to I-465 was under contract and due to be completed 1 December 1968.