Our window of opportunity is short.
INDOT plans to submit its preferred direction for reconstruction to the Federal Highway Administration in September 2018 and publish project information for prospective contractors in the fall. Reversing INDOT’s direction gets significantly more difficult with each milestone they reach. It’s imperative that state and local leaders act now to protect the central economic engine of the state.
The first phase of construction dictates the rest.
It’s true that INDOT only has immediate reconstruction plans for the North Split of I-65 and I-70. But INDOT’s definition of the “North Split” stretches west to Meridian Street, east to Rural Street, and south to Washington Street. Once construction begins, the layout of the North Split will dictate the direction for the rest of the inner loop. We will lose our chance to consider alternatives. The time for a serious, independent study is now—before initial construction locks us into a bad decision.
Widening lanes is not our only option.
INDOT’s current direction calls for widening the lanes that cut through downtown. We believe it’s too early to make that call. Other major U.S. cities are facing the same questions about what to do with aging infrastructure, and many have chosen to replace their highways with smarter, more connected traffic designs. An independent study would allow us to see if these types of alternatives are a good fit for Indiana.
We can replace the downtown interstates without worsening traffic.
With proper communication and planning, we can tear down and replace the urban interstates without creating massive traffic jams. In fact, in 2003, portions of 65/70 were closed for three months for a complete overhaul known as the 65/70 Hyperfix. According to a study by the Federal Highway Administration, this resulted in virtually no congestion downtown.
Rethinking 65/70 could have major economic benefits.
Preliminary estimates of new development potential along segments of the I-65 north leg alone indicate up to $200 million in new assessed value—generating over $7 million in annual property tax increment. We need more research to understand the full economic impact—positive and negative—and feasibility of the current INDOT direction and alternative designs.