A sign along State Road 37 north instructs drivers to make a U-turn in order to access Thompson Furniture. (Steve Burns, WFIU/WTIU News)
Drivers aren’t the only ones counting down the days until the state finishes converting State Road 37 into Section 5 of Interstate 69. Business owners along the route say the ongoing construction is confusing customers, and hurting sales.
Mark Thompson is used to seeing a steady stream of traffic out the front windows of his furniture store on State Road 37 .
But, the last few months, there’s a different kind of traffic in front of the shop: bulldozers and dump trucks.
“Even now, three and a half years in, they’re still digging dirt in front of the place,” Thompson says. “It’s amazing. You thought that part would have been done a long time ago.”
Crews are working to finish construction on the stretch of I-69 from Bloomington to Martinsville.
New bridges and exits are going up, and Thompson says it makes it harder for people to get to his store. What used to be a quick trip from downtown Bloomington now requires drivers to travel a few miles north of the store, before making a U-Turn to exit on Sample Road.
Businesses along the route of I-69 Section 5 are anxious for construction to wrap up. They say business is slow, because getting to the access roads where they’re located is confusing. Here’s the drive to Thompson’s Furniture, which you have to take the Sample Road exit for. pic.twitter.com/vDWkiwQfxR— Barbara Brosher (@BabsofBtown) May 9, 2018
“You have to really be willing to go out of your way to get here,” he says.
The Indiana Department of Transportation says that won’t be the case once the Sample Road interchange is complete. And, the agency put up signs to help drivers navigate to businesses directly off 37.
“I think we’re getting people where they need to go now,” says INDOT Public Affairs Manager Andy Dietrick. “It doesn’t always happen on the first time, and sometimes we have to move them around and change the location of the signage to make sure folks are getting to where they need to be.”
Thompson says business is much slower than normal, but he’s hoping it’s an inconvenience that will soon be gone. While the state has an Aug. 31 deadline to finish Section 5, he wants to see the work happening directly in front of his shop completed sooner.
“August is our big month,” Thompson says. “We’re hoping this will be done by then because that’s our big month with the students coming back. But, we don’t know for sure. Because it changes all the time.”
The project is nearly two years behind schedule, but INDOT says it’s confident it’ll meet its August deadline.