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Commuters cope with downtown Indy highway project

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Officials say they didn't see problems any worse than anticipated Tuesday morning when commuters for the first time dealt with the closure of a key section of interstates 65 and 70 that feed downtown Indianapolis, but the afternoon rush hour could be another story.

The Indiana Department of Transportation and Indianapolis media outlets have spent weeks warning motorists that their way to and from work will be complicated by work to lower pavement along the heavily traveled route to keep trucks from ripping their roofs and cargo under bridges that are posted for use by lower trucks. Most motorists were braced for changes with alternate routes planned, Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Richard Myers said.

"I think everybody got the word out and everybody did what they did and everything went smoothly," he said.

Indianapolis police spokeswoman Sgt. Linda Jackson said she drives to work from the south side where she lives every morning, and simply bypassed the closed exit ramp where she normally gets off and went on to the next one.

But traffic wasn't flowing so smoothly in outlying areas as the day wore on, and highway officials said backups could be worse for the afternoon rush hour.

Will Wingfield, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said highway officials were tracking the new traffic flow patterns caused by commuters' adjustments and had crews and police working traffic signals to try to make things run smoothly.

"There's a lot of traffic unloading onto city streets," from exits they don't ordinarily use, he said.

But conditions worsened as the morning rush intensified, Wingfield said.

"By 8 a.m., we were definitely seeing more traffic backups," he said.

The worst of the Tuesday morning backups were not downtown, but on the south side were I-465 merges with 65 and a major city street named Emerson Ave., where motorists have to quickly cross three lanes of traffic to get off at the next exit.

"That's a normal hot spot for us," Wingfield said, but "it could be complicated even further" when commuters rush to get home later Tuesday.

Westbound drivers also seemed to be overlooking a ramp where they can get off onto three major city streets, he said.

Officials say the highway work is needed because bridges in that section have been hit repeatedly by oversized semitrailer loads. The $12 million project scheduled for completion by the end of October.

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  • Indianapolis: A chicken in every pot...
    ...and a freeway through every subdivision. Wouldn't it be grand? or something?
  • interstates
    People come into the twenty first century it's 2013 Indy is growing and no one can stop it. Indy needs more interstates. Especially i69 needs to run through Indy reduce traffic on 465 and having 69 through will also relieve city streets. And I 74 through Indy also. Also most important a continue loop around downtown with 65&70 like Columbus OH and Charlotte NC. Imagine driving anywhere in Indy without lights and traffic. But of course you can't if you can't get out of the stone age.
  • I agree
    Logic Man, I agree that the previous comments are asinine. Remove the interstates through the core of one of the largest cities in the United States? Are you out of your minds? First of all, that would be a logistics nightmare for ball games and other events as the city is heavily downtown-centric, and second, the whole point of interstates is to provide direct routes TO cities, not AROUND them. No wonder people think of this place as an overgrown small town. By the way, interstates 69 and 74 were not designed to "end" at the beltway. 69 intended to go downtown via Binford Blvd > Fall Creek > Monon. It was cancelled during construction in 1972 because the Old Northside neighborhood group blocked it. 74 would have connected Crawfordsville Road with Southeastern Ave just south of the city, but funding ran out in 1974.
  • To Logic Man
    I don't think the Interstate highways were even originally intended to take commuters to/from downtown. They were intended to allow for evacuation from cities in the event of an actual disaster (not "Carmageddon") and to facilitate safe transport between large cities. I-74 is a through route that uses I-465 to get "through" Indy. I-69 will soon be a through route as well that will use I-465 to get "through" Indy. There's no reason that I-65 & I-70 couldn't also use I-465 if their current routes were converted into city streets short of downtown.
  • Get Real
    Come on people, really? Shut the interstate down and re-route through traffic around 465? Get real. Maybe I'm wrong, but Indy would probably be the only city that has an interstate running into town with no thru traffic allowed. Would it just dead end or what?!?! I don't think the interstate was "intended" to simply get traffic downtown. Its a freaking interstate that runs through many states and cities, not just to Indy. And shut it down so we can help the east side? How about bulldoze it and start over, that makes about as much sense as shutting the interstate down to thru traffic. It's the people on that side that need to change, not the interstate. I would certainly agree with allocating funds from the various fines that should have been given for traveling through when trucks shouldn't have been, but I suspect it wouldn't add up to that much at the end of the day, depending on how much the fines were.
  • Completely Agree!
    This is a first. I agree with ALL the comments so far. The issue of the necessity of the interstate aside, I REALLY want to know why this wasn't addressed during Hyperfix or why trucks are not being routed correctly. I am certain we could spend $12 million on a few other roads and sidewalks.
  • hyper dud
    Did hyperfix 8 years ago CAUSE this problem...don't recall trucks hitting these bridges with such frequency before.......
  • Just tear it down
    As was said already, when you can close it for two months without any major problems (just like was done for Hyperfix ~8 years ago), it really isn't needed. Even the media, who thrive on scaring people and making a mountain out of a molehill, were reporting that there was no major congestion this morning. Open up the near east side to downtown to help further revitalize the inner neighborhoods.
  • Micah is correct
    I commute into downtown to work and I drive along I70. Today, the first day it was closed as a thoroughfare, was the lightest traffic day I have ever seen on the route. If we closed this section permanently and instead routed all bypassing traffic along I465 then the highways to downtown would actually serve their intended purpose (funneling people in and out of downtown) and the I465 ring road would serve the purpose of bypassing the downtown. This should be the future.
  • Hypefix??
    Why wasn't this done as part of Hyperfix?
  • 400x?
    So are the fines from the 400+ truck drivers taking the wrong routes and endangering other drivers paying for all this?
  • End the madness
    If a highway can be closed for 60 days, it can be closed forever. We should seriously reconsider having interstate highways slicing through our downtown neighborhoods.

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