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South Split Closure Update

Over the past couple of years, urban freeways through downtowns throughout the country have been closed for short periods for construction. Notably, Los Angeles has the distinction of using the term “carmageddon” to characterize the perceived chaos that might ensue from the short term closure of such important roadways.

South Split Reconstruction (image credit: Curt Ailes)

South Split Reconstruction (image credit: Curt Ailes)

The latest downtown freeway closure to take place is locally; right here in Indianapolis. Dubbed “Survive the Split” by local media, the short section through downtown Indy where I-65 and I-70 combine was closed for 59 days earlier this month, to lower the roadway underneath a number of local street bridges. 18 wheeler trucks with over-height loads have repeatedly been subjected to the low overhead bridge beams and INDOT finally had enough and decided to fix the “problem” by lowering the roadway. Estimates of the cost are approximately $20 million.

This past Friday, I was able to snap some photos of the project. The freeway, which feeds thousands of commuters daily to downtown Indianapolis, is a large dirt road. For the past week, Twitter and local media have covered various anecdotal cases where local street traffic has been hung up for longer than normal periods. This is not unexpected.

South Split Reconstruction (image credit: Curt Ailes)

South Split Reconstruction (image credit: Curt Ailes)

However, while this has been a small annoyance, the world has surprisingly not ended. People are getting to their jobs. People are getting to school. People are getting home. As with the other downtown freeway closures of the past few years, chaos has not come as predicted. It begs the question, as fellow urban writer Aaron Renn recently asked, “Do we really need this freeway?”

What do you think?

14 Responses to “ “South Split Closure Update”

  1. ahow628 says:

    I live in Fletcher Place and today (about one week after the closure), my commute was almost exactly what it was before. Last Tuesday things were messy. Wednesday was better. By Thursday and Friday, it was almost unnoticeable.

    The freeway, which feeds thousands of daily to downtown Indianapolis, is a large dirt road.

    Yes, it feeds thousands to downtown Indy, but those people are now exiting within a mile of their final destination without the split. They are not the problem. The problem is that on a regular day (when the split is open) there are tens of thousands of vehicles “just passing through.” They don’t drive economic development. They don’t contribute to tax base. They deposit their pollution in my neighborhood. They are loud. They drive 75 miles an hour through what is posted as a 50mph zone. They cause congestion in the downtown area.

    Hell, INDOT’s OWN WEBSITE says that the trip on 465 takes 3 minutes longer for 65 thru traffic and 2 minutes longer for 70 thru traffic.
    http://www.in.gov/indot/3154.htm

    Add on to all this that the Split is sitting on probably $10-12M in annual tax revenue if it were residential/commercial instead, causes pollution, causes noise, and disconnects neighborhoods on the near-eastside. Take it out. Please, please, please take it out.

    Rochester is filling in their below-grade urban freeway:
    http://rochester.ynn.com/content/news/690905/inner-loop-grant-will–bridge-the-moat-/

    Syracuse is gunning for removal of their elevated urban freeway:
    http://systemicfailure.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/syracuse-studies-i-81-removal/

  2. KurtL says:

    I’m with you, ahow628.

  3. Wendy says:

    I live in Fountain Square and having the freeway closed is so awesome! It makes it so that downtown commuters must actually traverse city streets. I think this results in people seeing what downtown has to offer more (in terms of restaurants, public art, shops). I also love how QUIET it is without the traffic. Every time I look at that dirt road I think what a beautiful park it would make. I wish the city would have explored other options!

    • ahow628 says:

      I wish the city would have explored other options!

      And here is the problem: The split (and all other interstate, I believe) is state property so the city has little to no say in it. If the city did own it, it probably wouldn’t exist now and may not have existed ever.

      • Micah says:

        Well, since the auto industry took over the trains back in the day…lets just let the trains take over the highways, lol!!!
        i still envision a fast train in the middle of I65 connecting Indy to Chicago some day. Would be great.

        I heard there were tons of people out on the bridge last weekend (especially in the evening) taking pictures!

      • Paul Lambie says:

        I agree completely that removing the freeway would provide numerous benefits to the near downtown neighborhoods. I disagree completely though in your statement that “the city has little to no say in it. If the city did own it, it probably wouldn’t exist now and may not have existed ever.”

        That’s giving the City a real pass by acting as if the City is powerless to engage and challenge INDOT about alternatives. I’m pretty sure that many of the freeways that have been removed from other cities were under the control of state transportation departments with “roads first” mentalities. The facts are that the City has never shown any leadership on these issues and doesn’t even appear to request a seat at the table when state transportation projects are proposed and designed. Other municipalities have obviously worked to get much better designed projects from INDOT than has Indy.

        I realize yours was a brief comment, but I think you do the cause a disservice by giving Indy’s political leaders and DPW a pass. If we want these things to change, we need city leadership that both wants it and will work to achieve it.

  4. Edward says:

    Please continue to document this. This is another shinning example of government waste.

  5. Micah says:

    Yeah, I was thinking the same thing while riding my bike over the split today: sad to see all of our money being wasted on ReDOING ROADS ALL OF THE TIME—especially because the semis can fit under the overpasses. Seriously? And people wonder why Indiana is considered ‘backwards’???

  6. Rhonda Lee says:

    I think you’re all failing to see the big picture. As anti-road/anti-automobile I am, this stretch of road is an economic engine for the city and state.

    Also, if you really believe the reports that the effect on commute times is small, I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you. Congestion is up, which greatly increases air pollution and petroleum usage. If you think your quality of life will improve greatly by filling in a vital highway stretch and planting a few trees and putting in a coffee shop or two there, you’re delusional.

    • ahow628 says:

      As anti-road/anti-automobile I am, this stretch of road is an economic engine for the city and state.

      In what way is this an economic engine for the city and state? They are dropping $12-20M to lower the road under these bridges (not including lost property tax revenue). Where is there going to be an increase in economic return to the city or state of that magnitude?

      As I mentioned in my first comment, going around 465 adds 2-3 minutes to a trip so there is minimal reasons for going through downtown.

      Congestion is up, which greatly increases air pollution and petroleum usage.

      In the short term, yes. But if this was a permanent thing, people would start to reconsider their commute and either move, get a different job, or find another method of transport. Not to mention that reconnecting the grid would allow less congestion Right now, traffic coming in from the southeast has to cross either East, Virginia, or Fletcher. If they had the opportunity to cross at Davidson, Elm, Lexington, English, Harrison, or any of the other dozen or so streets that used to cross that area, traffic would not be an issue.

      If you think your quality of life will improve greatly by filling in a vital highway stretch and planting a few trees and putting in a coffee shop or two there, you’re delusional.

      I’m not talking about a trees and coffeeshops. I’m talking about replacing the 17,000 residents that were displaced by the interstate through downtown. Not to mention all the additional restaurants, businesses, and social services those residents would bring.
      http://historicindianapolis.com/flats-lost-i-65-construction/

    • Eric says:

      The point is that drivers will always adjust, going back to west side NYC highway collapse in the 1970’s.

  7. Eric says:

    You need 65 and 70 far more than 465, though. Those two actually connect to other metros- “interstate”, whereas the other just opens up farmland for office parks and subdivisions and really doesn’t serve downtown.

  8. Joe P says:

    Highways through downtown didn’t only displace thousands of residents, but they really choked off future development. I said this before, but I really think that the biggest catalyst for downtown growth would be if we got rid of downtown portion of I-65 / I-70. For instance, let’s say going North to South you end I-65 at 30th St exit, and then restart again at Raymond. And something along those line for I-70. Everyone would survive adapt and survive, but downtown would be much better off. Just think about Mass Ave/Chatam Arch…this is one of the most popular and thriving neighborhoods in our state, and it has a higway on its east side as a barrier, which means after you develop the old Coke site, you are pretty much done. It’s hard to connect these neighborhoods with a highway in the middle.

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