INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Of the seven options to imagine the future of the North Split just a few blocks off downtown Indianapolis, there is one proposal the neighbors down below really dislike, and now Mayor Joe Hogsett agrees.
On the final day to provide public input, Hogsett has written a letter to HNTB Corporation, a key consult to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), calling for more neighborhood consultations and against Concept 3 which proposes a rebuild of the North Split along its current lines with added lanes and an expanded footprint to reduce congestion and improve safety.
“I urge INDOT to minimize harm to downtown neighborhoods,” Hogsett wrote. “I will ask INDOT to keep the interstate within the existing road bed; make necessary bridge repairs to address valid safety concerns; make short-term repairs to allow further exploration of the long-term system-wide concepts, and build a project that does not preclude future construction of those concepts.”
The neighbors want safety-related improvements to maintain the stretch where I-65 and I-70 meet while taking more time to rethink the long-term options to improve a highway that split apart a community fifty years ago.
“That would be the preference of the neighborhood,” the mayor told CBS4. “The groups that have come together to partner with the city and INDOT in visioning what that’s going to look like. If we can not expand the footprint, I think that would be the best option.
“I think all options should be on the table. I think we ought to think creatively. I think we ought to think out of the box.”
Hogsett’s letter brought a round of applause from residents during a meeting of the Public Works Committee of the City County Council Thursday.
The “Rethink 65/70” coalition opposes additional lanes that would further encroach on the public right-of-way.
“It’s good that he responded and is on the peoples’ side,” said Sam Scott, owner of English Ivy’s Pub in the St. Joseph neighborhood literally in the shadow of the North Split. “It would tear apart and draw a line down the neighborhood, it wouldn’t preserve anything. A lot of people are putting money into and restoring the Old Northside so I don’t think it would go over well with the neighborhood whatsoever.”
Signs in opposition to the INDOT lead proposal and current timetable dot the front yards and windows of homes and businesses in the surrounding neighborhoods.
According to INDOT studies, Concept 3 would offer the most significant improvement to congestion, swallow up less additional space and could be built for a low end estimate of $900 million to $1.6 billion over five years.
The other proposals which include variations of tunnel, boulevard, depressed interstate or by-pass construction would have mixed results or significantly more problematic impacts at additional costs and construction calendars.
“Some of those options may be too expensive,” said Hogsett. “I think every option ought to be on the table but we have to be reasonable about the overall cost of the project.”
INDOT Spokesman Scott Manning told CBS4, “The project team will develop project-level alternatives for the North Split as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The process for the next few months will be to develop alternatives, identify benefits and impacts of those alternatives, and continue public involvement. The public comment period for alternatives is anticipated to be in late summer/early fall of this year.”
Groundbreaking for the North Split project is not expected until 2020.
Beginning July 1, I-65 will be closed from Meridian Street to 21st Street in the northwest approach to downtown for bridge resurfacing.
The project should be complete by Aug. 5.
It’s estimated that 214,000 vehicles travel the North Spilt every day, with just ten percent passing through from one corner of I-465 to the other.