CARMEL, Ind.-- If you’ve visited Carmel over the past year, you’ve probably navigated through your fair share of closures and barricades as the Rangeline Road corridor through downtown Carmel received an extreme makeover.
Typically, growing communities and their engineers increase the number of lanes in those high-volume areas, but Carmel took the opposite approach with what they dubbed a “Road Diet.” The project reduced lanes from 4th Street to Executive Drive from five lanes--two in each direction plus a middle turn lane--to just one lane in each direction with a landscaped median.
Right on schedule, the area has reopened in time for CarmelFest and the CarmelFest parade. But what will the new setup mean for drivers and parade-goers? Our Rachel Bogle talked to Mayor Jim Brianard to find out.
“Many times planners and engineers will enlarge roads simply to get more cars through the green cycle of the light,” said Brainard. “With our constant flow of cars at the roundabouts, we were able to reduce the number of lanes, put a beautiful median in, add a bike lane and widen the sidewalks to make it much more pedestrian friendly.”
But what does this mean for drivers?
“Our modeling actually shows that trip times--the time it takes to go from A to B--will stay the same or decrease. Speeds will decrease at the same time because we are eliminating the stoplights,” he explained. “The whole nature of the road is going to change. It’s going to be a beautiful grand boulevard coming in to our new downtown Carmel.”
Changing the whole nature of the road was no small undertaking. It didn’t take long for local business owners and their patrons to become all too familiar with a maze of detours in the area.
“You know it’s going to affect you but you don’t really realize how much and how long it’s going to affect you,” said Shelley Jordan, owner of Blu Moon Café.
To ensure patrons would brave the detours and continue to visit Blu Moon Cafe, she said she had to think outside the box.
“We did a dollar off per detour you took to get here… So if you came in and said ‘I took four detours,’ you got $4 off your order,” said Jordan.
From the city’s perspective, Mayor Brainard said the most important way they try to help local businesses is to get in, get the work done and get out quickly. They also put incentives in their contracts to make sure the project is done on time.
“[Contractors] get paid a little bit more if they get it done earlier and if they are too late over a certain period of days, they have a disincentive,” said Brainard.
But there was one non-negotiable factor.
“It had to be done by the [CarmelFest] parade,” he said. “That was a have to. There’s no ‘We’ll try to get it done.'”
Fortunately, the contractors delivered.
So how will the new Rangeline Road improve the spectator experience this year?
“There will be more room to watch,” said Brainard. “There will be more shade. It will be a much more beautiful parade route, especially in a few years as these trees and flowers start to fill in. We have a new fountain just a half a block north from where we’re standing now…that area will be turned in to a beautiful public plaza that people will be able to enjoy.”
Despite the construction, several new businesses popped up in the area, including The Old Spaghetti factory (which filled the former Shapiro’s space) as well as Sun King Brewery’s new tap room plus several more set to open over the next few months including the much-anticipated Cake Bake Shop location slated to open this fall.