MARTINSVILLE — Heavy truck traffic, commuter cars and detour signs are a common sight through downtown Martinsville thanks to the ongoing construction of the new Interstate 69.
State Road 37 is closed at Morgan Street as crews continue to build the new interstate, bridges and infrastructure through Morgan County.
That traffic that typically travels along SR 37 is moving through the downtown area of Martinsville before reconnecting with SR 39 and then eventually the new I-69 as drivers head between Indianapolis and Bloomington.
"Hearing the traffic is not so bad, dealing with the traffic is another story because they took away a whole row of parking to make enough room for 69 to come through," said Martinsville business owner Jackie Cook.
Cook owns a spooky good spot called the Waffle Witch known for their breakfast items all made on a waffle iron. Her restaurant sits on Morgan Street on the city square, right along that busy detour route. She said the commuter traffic has not helped business, but rather, hurt it, as business owners like her work to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"You may as well be closed if there's an IU game," Cook said. "People will start warning each other, don't go into town today, it's an IU game. And so everybody stays away and that is so hurtful. And I know people don't think about it like that, but you are hurting the local business when you advise other local people to stay home."
Cook says commuters on game days are already waiting in lines of traffic through town to get to and from Bloomington, and they aren't looking for a place to stop and eat.
"They are on a mission," Cook said. "They are going from Bloomington to Indy they don't want to stop and eat a waffle. They should want to stop and eat a waffle, if they knew how good they were!"
Martinsville Mayor Kevin Costin echoed the sentiments of local business owners and citizens who are are frustrated by the heavy traffic through their city.
"It's been challenging to say the least," said Costin, who also encourages residents to look for the positives long-term for Martinsville. "It's been frustrating. It's been trying. Any adjective you want to try to use to describe it, but we've got to look on the bright side and that's millions of dollars that we would've never been able to accomplish as a city."
The mayor pointed to the new sewer and water lines installed by the state in Martinsville for the I-69 project as well as other infrastructure as long-term impacts of the road project. He said those fixes are huge and will save the city money in the long run, and it is help that the city may not have been able to afford on its own.
Costin also hopes that more people get to drive through Martinsville and the square and see all the area and local businesses have to offer. He said it is advertising for people to return to the area.
Costin also added that the Indiana Department of Transportation will repair and repave the streets used as the detour upon completion of the work.
He said if you see the areas of I-69 that are already complete, the project will add beauty to Martinsville and serve as a gateway to the city.
Still, he and business owners like Cook hope and pray the project is on schedule.
WRTV checked in with Mallory Duncan, spokesperson for INDOT, who said the portion of the project through Martinsville is still on track to finish by the end of construction season, but a specific date hasn't been determined. The rest of the project is on pace to wrap up in 2024.
Martinsville Police will be on site during IU football game day traffic to help drivers get through downtown Martinsville. IU also warns opposing teams to use routes other than State Road 37 through Martinsville to get to the game.
Here are some other options for commuters between Indianapolis and Bloomington:
- Take State Road 67 to State Road 39 and then reconnect with I-69.
- Take I-65 south to Columbus at State Rd 46 and travel through Nashville along SR 46 to get to Bloomington.
- Take SR 135 south to Trafalgar and then head west on SR 252to Morgantown. Take SR 135 south to Beanblossom, Nashville and then connect with SR 46 to Bloomington.
- Take I-70 to US 231 through Cloverdale and Spencer. Then take SR 46 east through Elletsville to get to Bloomington.
Stay up to date on the latest progress on I-69 by going to I69finishline.com.