In the summer of 2010, the Indianapolis DPW began a project on 52nd street in Midtown Indianapolis. This project’s goal was to resurface the roadway, repair broken sidewalks and add bike lanes. This project was bounded by the Monon Trail on the east and by College Ave on the west. Last summer and fall, I brought you two stories here and here about this project. Previous projects east of the Monon on 52nd street had already added bike lanes and a smooth roadway. This project apparently falls under the Rebuild Indy banner although I am not positive as it seems like ALL DPW projects have the title of Rebuild Indy attached to them these days.
With that in mind, I set out recently to examine the work that they did and here is my critique of the design and execution of said project. Below is a general grade scale defined by pretty easy to follow criteria. I will attempt to justify my grade for each portion.
A – Excellent! No improvements needed
B – Great work. Some improvements needed
C– Status Quo
D – Borderline failure in design or execution
F – Total Failure in design or execution
The previous roadway was removed and new asphalt laid down to replace it. It appears that two layers were added. One late in the fall of 2010 and another finishing layer recently. The finish is smooth and seems to blend well with the existing pavement as well as the transition with the Monon Trail. Those of us who live in this area had to endure some poor pavement conditions through the winter, but such is life. The DPW probably could have paved into each connecting street a few feet and made the transitions better, but otherwise, not bad.
Lane Width & Striping
I took a tape measure with me so that I could determine whether or not the design narrowed the driving lanes. Since no additional ROW was acquired for this project it stands to reason that driving lanes took the brunt of this. Accordingly, I measured 9 feet for driving lanes. Compared to 9.5 to 10 feet further down 52nd street, I consider this a win. Additionally, due to the nature of the built environment through here whereby the home are much closer to the road, a sense of close proximity exists between drivers, cyclists and the abutting property. All these combined with the narrow lanes makes me believe that drivers may be encouraged to drive slower through this stretch. The bike lanes seem reasonable as well although I did not measure them. I always seem to think that we can do better here though and since no median was constructed to add landscaping, grass or pedestrian islands, I will not give an A.
Sidewalks & Utilities
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, part of this project was to rehabilitate the crumbling sidewalks. The previous conditions were unacceptable and while new concrete replaced the broken parts, the finished product is itself, unacceptable. This is due in part to the zero attention paid to the utility poles which are platted directly in the middle of most of the stretch of sidewalk. None of them were moved and new concrete was simply poured in around them. In previous posts, I measured and it appears that it is difficult to fit a wheelchair or stroller through some of the portion. Perhaps I am incorrect on this, but they look terrible and a pain to navigate around for those of lesser mobility.
The addition of ADA ramps at all connecting streets was a welcome site. Proper rumble strips and bricks have been added to make this a pleasant experience for those needing them. However, coupled with the poor condition of the sidewalk, who is really going to be using these?
To wrap this up, I thought that I would share a short narrative. A couple of weeks ago, I traded barbs on twitter with Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully about the Rebuild Indy program. He was propping it up and I questioned this logic based upon the notion that this funding could be used to tremendously improve the quality of our built environment which is sorely lacking in many areas. He accused me of being insane for questioning half a billion in infrastructure to which I replied, I’m not insane to question it if we are doing things incorrectly. This project is a key example of poor use of tax payer dollars. The sidewalks are unacceptable, the design of the road could have been improved, new pavement could have been extended to connecting streets and while the narrow driving lanes and addition of bike lanes save the project from being a total loss, when we as Indianapolis residents get to witness world class projects like the Cultural Trail and Georgia Street being built, well, I can’t help but demand more from our public works. How long until this pavement is pulled up at the seams where it is left unfinished on connecting streets? How long will it be until the utulity poles are relocated? And most importantly, how long will it be until people actually want to walk down a sidewalk like this?
As always, I am open to thoughts on my conclusions.