In 2010, Mayor Greg Ballard used bonding capacity against equity in our water/sewer utilities as well as future rate increases to fund a program that is called, Rebuild Indy. The first injection of funds came in to the tune of $55 million. It was used to jumpstart the program and largely includes resurfacing streets, repairing some sidewalks, and constructing a trail on the NW side of Indianapolis by adding a trail from Cold Springs Road to Kessler Boulevard along Michigan Road. A couple of weeks ago, $32 million more in projects were announced. Some bridge reconstruction work is planned for Meridian Street across Fall Creek as well as the Morris Street bridge over the White River on the city’s south side.
Much more work is said to be planned when and if the “sale” of the sewer/water utilities to Citizens energy is approved through the IURC who is currently deliberating on the matter. The announced sum that the city would have to spend on infrastructure (including what has been spent already) would be $425 million.
I have inquired repeatedly to the Mayor’s office about what the rest of the projects would entail and even received some off the record information regarding some specific projects. However, there doesn’t seem to be a clear intent to release all the planned on projects that Rebuild Indy plans on tackling. I’m sure there is political headache at risk for such a move.
However, and what should concern most of us living within Indianapolis urban neighborhoods, is what are planners REALLY going to do with this money to preserve and improve the quality of life for residents? The Mayor’s recent State of the City address pointed out the need to focus on our inner city neighborhoods. The census recently opened our eyes that suburban flight continues unabated in the Indianapolis area except where we have created pedestrian friendly environments. Urban Indy author Greg Meckstroth recently tackled this issue. Although there have been a few projects of noteworthy pedestrian mention such as the Michigan Road trail, the first round of Rebuild Indy projects have largely focused on simply repaving our existing roads, and restriping them in the same fashion despite repeated attempts by not only myself, but those of IndyCOG to improve our bike lane designations downtown. Furthermore, a project in my own neighborhood this summer had a Rebuild Indy sign posted and when the sidewalks were repaired, it could be debated whether or not they were repaired at all. The project aims to add bike lanes however, once the weather warms which will be a welcome addition.
Personally, it concerns me that the status quo of road design is not being examined in the least and we are borrowing money from tomorrow, to simply repair areas that in 5-10 years from now, will suffer similar breakdowns. With Complete Streets type of projects taking place in our city (Meridian/Westfield & 10th Street SB Legacy) and world class projects such as the Cultural Trail in progress, the bar has been raised. As residents, how can we not demand more for our invested dollar?
Perhaps I will be proven wrong and there is a vast plan of adding NEW sidewalks through neighborhoods that don’t currently have any. Perhaps there is another Georgia Street project lurking in the weeds that hasn’t been announced yet. Perhaps our side streets where cars speed through can be calmed so that the city has a fighting chance of attracting families with children to live in the neighborhoods that they lie within. If so, I will drop my criticism and get on board. As it stands though, I fear we are on board to spend a lot of money on projects that have an opportunity to tremendously improve the quality of life for Indianapolis’ residents, but which fail to do so.