Residents hear proposals on alternative plans for INDOT I-65/I-70 split project

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A group of architects is asking INDOT to take a look at some alternatives to a plan that would widen the I-65/I-70 split.

The project would help alleviate traffic at both the north and south split by adding lanes.

On Thursday night, The American Institute of Architects Indianapolis (AIA) held a presentation for community members to show how INDOT's plans would impact surrounding neighborhoods and some alternative proposals they're hoping INDOT will consider.

Mary Jane Moriarty lives in the historic Cottage Home neighborhood. She was one neighbor expressing her concerns over traffic, pollution and landscape that would take over her community.

"We have some trees and actually the kids use that berm as a sledding hill and now we’re just going to have some big ugly concrete wall," she said.

During the presentation, members of AIA Indianapolis showed images of what the current highway looks like and visuals of INDOT's expansion plans. The interstate would expand about 50%.

"The grassy berm is replaced by a 25 to 30 foot tall concrete wall, which effectively creates a wall that separates the historic neighborhoods even more than they are today," explained architect with AIA, Mark Beebe.

One alternative suggested would be surface level boulevards and depressed roadways that would look almost like tunnels, with the highway running underneath landscaped city streets.

Beebe and others are asking INDOT to "hit the pause button" of the plans and look at how similar cities like Columbus, Ohio and Cincinnati, Ohio are keeping their historic integrity while accommodating heavy traffic. The city recently asked DPW to go to Columbus, Ohio to look at their interstate expansion plans.

"We feel there are better alternatives out there and we believe if INDOT would be able to slow down the process enough to look a these alternatives, they could study the benefits to the city," Beebe said.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett sent this letter to INDOT:

As the Indiana Department of Transportation begins in earnest to address the need for immediate-term bridge repairs along the north and south splits of-70 and longer-term accommodations for downtown destination and thru-city traffic, I urge the state to consider a partnership between the City, INDOT, and the Metropolitan Planning Organization to craft a shared vision for the project that considers community impact and benefits of alternative design options.

Construction of the interstate highway system in the 1960s and 70s changed the character of downtown Indianapolis and its neighborhoods. Over the past 40 years the city reemerged as a national success story of urban revitalization, thanks to the work of the previous five mayors, strong civic leadership, and our partners in state government. As the late Mayor Hudnut used to say, "lndia-NO-place" is now "India-SHOW-place" -Amateur Sports Capital of the World, an international  destination, a thriving hub for tech innovation, and home to passionate, thoughtful Indianapolis residents. But many fear a traffic solution that simply widens the existing elevated system could-for a second time -devastate our city's historic core and the neighborhoods that line the right-of-way on all sides.

Over the last several weeks and months, residents from across Indianapolis have reached out to express their concerns and share with me and my leadership team a series of high-level alternative concepts that deserve thoughtful consideration. Many neighborhoods remember all too well the challenges faced in the wake of those original highway projects. These communities developed a remarkable level of resiliency, as well as a marked desire to ensure progress made is not lost.

Peer cities such as Austin and Dallas, Texas, and Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, have established national best practices, devising context-sensitive solutions to urban right-of-way challenges. I would encourage the state to consider at-grade alternatives that would sufficiently move traffic and meet INDOT's needs while reconnecting our neighborhoods and street grid. Such alternatives may have a residual benefit by potentially opening up valuable state-owned downtown right of-way for development. We have the opportunity to learn from best practices and work collaboratively to strengthen Central Indiana’s connectivity and showcase our state's culture of innovation.

I will make my leadership team available to you, and I would also be happy to meet in person to discuss. The City of Indianapolis values its relationship with the State of Indiana and I look forward to continuing to work together.

INDOT said they are still in the environmental study phase of the project. They said it won't be until 2020 until construction starts.

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