The Rethink Coalition partnered with the Indy Chamber to hire Arup Inc., a globally respected engineering and transportation planning firm, to compare a rebuild “as is” option with a recessed interstate alternative that would reduce the physical footprint, reconnect downtown neighborhoods, and create development opportunities. The resulting study offers an in-depth analysis on the feasibility of rebuilding the rest of the Inner Loop (the sections not currently under construction) using recessed highway construction, comparing the physical, economic, and social impacts of the recessed option vs. rebuilding it as-is. In presenting the findings, we hear a lot of questions! Here are some of the most common.
How does the North Split construction that’s underway "fit" with a recessed concept for the rest of the Inner Loop?
Photograph by Ted Somerville email@example.com
During negotiations for the design of the North Split, community stakeholders and the City of Indianapolis requested that INDOT select a design that would not preclude recessing the other legs of the Inner Loop in the future. INDOT agreed to abide by that request, so while the North Split (under construction now) will be elevated, it will not prevent recessing the other legs of the interstate system.
Have other cities put in recessed highways? What has been their experience with them?
Yes. Cincinnati, Columbus (Ohio), St. Louis, and Dallas are just some of the cities that have recessed sections of highway. Indianapolis does as well. A portion of the east leg of the Inner Loop is recessed, although the footprint is wider than what is contemplated in the Arup Study.
Cincinnati transformed its riverfront area by recessing Interstate 71, opening pedestrian and street access to the stadium area, which was considered essential to development. Below are some pictures showing the riverfront development history:
Columbus revitalized the High Street area north of its convention center by building two cap structures that now house restaurants over a section of the I-670 recessed highway. Visitors and residents can walk from the convention center north along High Street without noticing the highway underneath. This has helped to spur business and residential population growth. For more information, visit: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ipd/project_profiles/oh_cap_union_station.aspx
Will the Inner Loop be rebuilt at once or in stages, and how long will it take?
It’s likely that the three remaining pieces of the Inner Loop rebuild—the North Leg, East Leg, and South Leg—will be tackled in segments and stages. The segments are laid out graphically in the Arup Study, and we have no way of knowing in what order that will happen. Each leg will be a multi-year project with planning, engineering, and construction likely taking six or more years to complete, so this is a big deal for the state, both in timing and expense.
What's the cost of the rebuild? Who pays for it?
Arup estimates that the cost of rebuilding the Inner Loop using the preferred recessed highway option would be about $2.8 billion, paid for by a combination of federal and state dollars. Rebuilding the interstate as-is would cost about $2.3 billion. In a project of this size, impact, and importance, there will have to be significant debate around cost, value capture, financing, governance, investment, and vision. The Arup Study [link] starts to dig into this and gives us a solid starting point for this important community conversation.
What can I do to help/support the Rethink Coalition?
First, visit our new website, www.rethink65-70.org. Along with the Arup Study, the site has lots of helpful information, and we’ll continue adding to it. Also, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram [inset links] for frequent updates. Second, make a donation and become a member of Rethink. Our volunteer organization needs your help. Third, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to engage in Rethink learning and visioning over the next year as the community conversation unfolds. Speak up, stand up, and participate! Finally, please encourage others to join Rethink and link arms in the efforts of all who want to build a better Indianapolis and Central Indiana for those who live, work, and visit our Capital City. The conversation we’re having about our aging urban highways here in Indiana is similar to conversations happening in other cities across the country. With the Arup Study as a conversation starter, along with our Hoosier creativity and ingenuity, we can be a beacon and example of progress and improvement for the whole country!