Time to bring I-69 downtown?

May 28, 2010
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The interstate highway system is now so old that massive reconstructions of the original pavement have been under way for years.

But in Indianapolis, a ghost of the original plan remains: The extension of Interstate 69 all the way downtown from I-465 on the northeast side.

Is it time to reconsider the project? A better road would alleviate lots of congestion and cut the time needed to drive from Fishers to downtown by about half.

Even though it was never completed, much of the groundwork is laid. Four-lane Binford Boulevard angles toward downtown from I-465 but stops at Fall Creek Parkway. Now, look at Google Maps carefully and you’ll notice a tiny spur extending toward Fall Creek from the north interchange of I-70 and I-65 downtown.

Could the northern interchange and Binford be linked at a reasonable price? A route from the northern interchange to Binford could easily pass through a series of brownfields and neighborhoods that probably never will attract urban pioneers like the Old Northside did.

The drawbacks would be significant. An interstate might torpedo plans for mass transit. Cars and trucks would howl past Martindale Brightwood and Fall Creek Place. Sprawl might get another shot in the arm.

What are your thoughts?

  • bad idea
    Bad for the environment, bad for the neighborhoods, regressive thinking and does nothing to promote quality of life within the city of Indianapolis. It just makes life easier for those living in Fishers.
  • well...maybe
    Yes the on and off ramps r-o-w are very visible, however I cant imagine the extra congestion this would create. Anybody driving thru here at 5:30 pm knows what I am talking about.
    I think a express bus route is a better idea.
  • I-69
    Money and energy will be best expended on mass transit in the form of light rail in that area. An extension of I-69 is not
    a suitable option.
  • horrible idea
    Indianapolis is blessed that this piece of I69 was never built. Like Tom noted, it wouldn't be good for Indianapolis, it would only be good for the commuter suburbs.

    I'd also suggest that you talk to the people rebuilding the area "Martindale on the Monon" -- that area is directly in the original path of I69 and the neighborhood would be eviscerated if the interstate were built. They also might beg to differ with the notion that urban pioneers aren't interested in this area.
  • Are you kidding me?
    Did you really ask this question? This is a miserable suggestion. Transit capitalizes on far more economic opportunities with far fewer environmental and neighborhood impacts. I'm astounded the question was even asked!
  • An idea only 40 years too late. It wopuld be cost prohibitive because every piece of abandoned property will not be worth millions and require eminent domain to obtain.

    Spend the time, money and energy on a mass transit line from Fishers.
  • I-69
    Extending INTERSTATE highways tangent to and into the innards of our cities was the dumbest idea ever in the history of road building. A short trip through Atlanta, Nashville or Knoxville proves that point. Interstates should be routed no closer than 50 mile to major metropolitan areas. If the cities want to connect to the I-ways, let 'em.

    I-ways should be for INTERSTATE travel. When one travels from Indy to Atlanta, why should that INTERSTATE traveler have to put up with 3 lanes filled with shift workers and bank tellers using the INTERSTATES as local roads?

    Dumb, dumber and dumbest, but what would one expect of a system designed by politicians?
  • Wow!
    Wow Norm - were you trying to get more posts on your particular blog. I can't even imaginge you would even think of putting this thought in the minds of the potential INDOT people that might be reading this blog. Nobody should suggest this again. Look at what I65 has done when it split through the Crown Hill neighborhoods. Pretty much decimated it; cut it off from the community and urban fabric and has been struggling ever since. Same thing would happen to these neighborhoods. The only perceived path without taking up too many residential areas would be to follow I-69 all the way up the monon to 38th street area and connect it somehow! Good luck with the feeder into Binford.

    please don't bring this up again
  • Think Keystone
    Instead of upgrading and extending Binford into an extension of I-69, why not do with Binford something similar to the Keystone Parkway project in Carmel? Eliminating the traffic lights in favor of elevated roundabout interchanges would allow traffic to move smoother, would be less invasive and more aestically appealing. A new interchange should probably be added where Fall Creek, Binford and Allisonville all intersect as this area seems to get really congested. But once you get past 38th Street, I think the traffic moves very smoothly.
  • Utter Stupidity
    By far the most ignorant & foolish post/suggestion I have read on IBJ to date! Somebody should be fired.
  • I69
    Totally disagree with the prior three posts. Mass transit has been tried on test levels and has never taken off in Indy. The 69 extension would be a great thing for saving time from the NE and SW and would promote additional growth in the city.
    • THX Brian
      Finally - a dose of reality from Brian.

      Norm's idea is not only reasonable but worth considering. I did not realize how many tree huggers we had in this city.

      I say we slap a 30% sales tax on bicycles and running shorts, plow under the monon, and install an gas/oil pipeline in its place. That revenue can be used to pay for the new highway and to offset the losses from defunct windfarm investments and the environmental catastrophes caused by lithium-ion battery disposal.
      • The Engineers Told Us So
        When Senator Birch Bayh scuttled the I-69 extension in the '60's, the design engineers warned that the decision would snarl traffic for decades. They were right. The savings in gas and carbon emissions over the last 40 years would be staggering, and those savings need to be considered over the next 40 years.
      • I-69
        NO NEW HIGHWAYS. Sorry for shouting. Mass transit only.
        BTW, I-69 south of the city is a monumental waste of money and isn't even needed.
      • No Good
        When will we break away from this more highways are good mind-set. If we EVER expect to complete with other cities it is ever so critical to have a Mass Transit system for the entire region.

        The extension mentioned here, along with the widely expensive extension of I-69 across new terrain in the SW part of the state simply is living in the past. We simply must get off the highway and into rail. Doing so will come at a signicantly lower cost than continuing to build more roads and attempting to maintain them.
      • Less Pavement, More Options
        The thought of more roadway will only continue to foster the ostrich approach to mass transit that has paralyzed the effort to date. Indianapolis wants to play - and hopefully lead - in the "big city" leagues when it comes to events, quality of life and such. Without an effective mass transportation solution, it will not happen.
      • Yes
        Of course, extending I-69 is a great idea, not only to Downtown from the north but also out of Downtown to the south. In fact, why not tie the alleged mass transit need to the new leg of I-69, either over/under or side-by-side? This would be the engineer's dream of huge design fees that they have been pushing through the label of "mass-transit" for over a decade.
        But, let's be real. The political will to do the correct thing has withered and died under the weight of media and the pressure from those who actually have something to gain by spending billions on a transit idea that was proven wrong when the railroads went broke trying to move passengers. Americans don't like to be told when they must be on the train, so most will not use it. But, the promoters would have 100% of the taxpayers, what few are left, pay for all of it. Personally, even though I work Downtown I cannot imagine the opportunity when I might actually take the train or bus: no flexibility, too much walking, too much weather, and I would still need to pay for the whole car and monthly parking. The only savings would be the gas and a little wear and tear on the car. Not happening.
        Mass transit is a bad idea for a City such as ours that is capable of expanding in every direction: land values never get high enough to force people beyond the point of commutability, so they just drive a little longer. Our traffic situation is nothing compared to larger cities, most of which already have mass transit without solving their traffic problems.
        So, back to the original answer: build the road. It has been on the shelf much too long already.
      • SIGH
        Why not both? Extending I-69 to the North Split would give the planners an excuse to redesign what HAS to be the poorest concept ever. Hundreds of cars an hour trying to cross THREE lanes of traffic in BOTH directions to make an exit that's too close. Exit 113 for NB I-65 should not be; ;it should be part of exit 84 from WB I-70; and no possible crossovers from either WB I-70 to get to NB I-65 Exit 114 nor from NB I-65 to Pennsylvania St. At least not as it was built. Too many accidents in that area bear this out. There's some sort of collision there almost every day. The I-69 downtown extension, as it appears from studying the R-O-W, bridges, etc., would have diverted a lot of the traffic seeking to make the I-70-to-West St. either onto College Av or the collector/feeder and onto Michigan St. With less traffic on I-70 (mostly from the Post Rd / Shadeland / Emerson areas) would be headed through the split, reducing that hazard. Meanwhile, recall that mass transit requires Federal subsidies to meet expenses - regardless of where it's implemented in the US. Passenger transportation is "exciting", "romantic", etc., but historically, us Americans much prefer to be in control of our destinies - and destinations.
      • I-69
        Who does this really help? I do not see it helping anyone in Indy. Only people living north of the city.
        It doesn't even hurt the transportation industry, It just doesn't help the 2% that would benefit from it. Bad idea all the way around.
      • no
        Norm, this is a bad idea. Much like the original construction did back when it was first laid, it would further divide neighborhoods, further disconnect people and while it may seem like on the surface that it would get more people through faster, are you going to add more lanes to I70 as it passes through downtown to handle the relocated density of traffic?

        I seriously hope that you are fishing for a further expanded article supporting mass transit. When other cities are actively looking at how to remove freeways from their urban core, funneling more into ours, seems like a horrible idea.
      • why not?
        Tell me. who uses i65 coming into work? who uses i70 going into work? why not have i69 also connect it to the spaghetti bowl and bring it down to evansville. When ever I go from the south west side to Ft.Wayne, it is easy to do a 70,465,69 inner change. if I could hop on 70 to 69 inner change, it would make it easier for me to travel that route.

        Meh. if you all don't want any chance of going quicker to the north side, than no worries. we can just push any idea away that COULD improve our traffic. granted it could make it worse, but it could also make it better (if planned out right).

        I just know it is a hassle for me to travel from the south west side to places like Frys and Keystone @ the Crossing because I have to hop on this road to get to that road to another road to get there. Not just that, but there are good places on the south west side of indy that are good. Airport, Gray brother's Cafeteria, and enough land in the area to build up like the north east side just to name a few ideas.

        I hope that we aren't so fickle enough that we get our panties in a bunch over an idea without analysing all options that it can be laid out and planned for all to enjoy.
      • There Was Reason It Was Never Done, It Represents Failed Policy
        How in the world would extending I-69 "promote growth" in the City of Indianapolis? Indianapolis has more interstates running through it than just about any other city in the nation. It does not need more interstates, and it certainly does not need more neighborhoods destroyed by overly expansive highway building. Every neighborhood that interstates cut through in the 1960's and 1970's was destroyed. The only positive thing an I-69 extension toward downtown would do is to perhaps shave a couple of minutes off for a suburban commuter, and in a few years, as congestion increased, those couple of minutes would be lost again. The days of bulldozing neighborhoods to build massive highways has been over for decades. If any effort was made to extend I-69 toward downtown it would be mired down in litigation for years, effectively killing the proposal. That aside, it would just be poor transit policy.
      • Capitalism Has Nothing to Do With It
        Your comments are utterly ridiculous. Moreover, I promise you that any proposal to extend I-69 toward downtown would be met with the mother of all litigation, and the proponents of such a foolish idea would learn the meaning of slash and burn, as they would be tied up in the courts until their bank accounts bled out. A proposal to extend I-69 through downtown is nothing more than a daydream, a foolish daydream, but a daydream nonetheless.
      • Seriously?
        Yeah, Highway Guy... that walking thing is awful. I want to be teleported right from my bed to my office chair so that I don't have to walk at all.
        -I think that "walking thing" is something Hoosiers need to try more of. Take a look around... you should see enough to agree with that. Or just read any health-related articles about Indiana.

        Anyway, really... another intersate running through downtown? I-65 and I-70 already run through downtown... want to run I-74 through too? Hey, it's already on both sides of the interstate, that should make it easy! Wait, that's it, let's just turn the core of the city into a massive interstate interchange... yeah, that would be lovely.

        Some people amaze me. A couple of minutes would be saved on commute time in the short-term, and in the long-term they would be lost again. Remember, there are people that avoid this path already to get to downtown from Fishers (think I-70)... so, if you made it interstate the whole way in, I think some of those people would take this path again. So, there's your 2 extra lanes filled back up.

        So, Norm, I would like to see where you found that the commute time from Fishers to downtown would be cut in half by bringing I-69 into downtown. Or is this just your assumption to stir the pot, and get some comments on this blog?
      • Confirmed
        So, it is again confirmed that the bloggers would rather rant at each other than address the issues. So far, I have seen no facts, including in my own comment. Until we have some actual facts in these things, we are wasting everyone's time.
      • another way
        We need to invest in mass transit. The days of this city being a corny, good ol' boy playground are way over. Sorry Fishers, guess you either need to find a job where you live, or else drive the extra five minutes.
      • Helps northside, harms Indy
        The only people that want this to happen are the people that don't care about the neighborhoods harmed by their commute on another too-wide interstate bisecting Indianapolis. It wouldn't ugly up the cookie-cutter whitewashed northside neighborhoods they call home, so why would they? Our city has already been damaged enough by interstates. If people want to reduce their commute, move back into Marion County and help the real Indy out with your tax dollars and civic involvement, instead of leapfrogging outer Marion County with more harmful interstates.
      • You're all missing something...
        One big problem that a lot of the posters above are forgetting is that once Interstate 69 is truly done and runs from Canada to Mexico you are going to get a heck of a lot more non-local traffic on that route. And where is all that traffic going to go? I-465. So, 465 will become way more crowded. I'm not totally opposed to some limited level of mass transit but Indy just doesn't have the population density to support it on a large level. Mass transit really only works when people are crowded in tight unlike here. Otherwise, it is a huge cash drain. Plus, when you've got a car culture and relatively inexpensive parking downtown there isn't a ton of incentive for the commuter to use mass transit. Extending 69 through downtown is a fantastic idea. Lets face it. The Indy metro area now has more people living outside the city limits in the suburbs than in the city. The suburbs are where the money is, the growth is, and the future and growth of our metro area is. Anything that stands in the way of the suburbs continuing to grow in the long term is going to hurt the future of everyone in our metro area.
      • Inananity
        Norm and IndyTodd, this I-69 downtown proposal gets an F in Urban Planning 101. Not everyone wants to live in the suburbs, and the wealth that the suburbs claim has depended on the concentration of economic activity created by a real city called Indianapolis. Carmel was a stoplight 50 years ago. Or should we just move the capital up to Carmel and let all of Marian County regress to urban prairie? Killing off your central city so that suburbanites can wall themselves off in paradise is bad for the entire metro area; just look at Detroit.
      • MWAHAHA!
        How about we put a couple of interstates through Carmel and Fishers so I can get to The Palladium and Indiana Design Center more easily? We should probably put one right in front of Conner Prairie too. It's a pain in the butt to get there from Fountain Square, takes forever!

        Seems like some of you have a lot of disdain for Marion County. Why does one need an interstate to get to a place one so quickly disparages? Seems like that makes you THE LEAST QUALIFIED PEOPLE TO MAKE ANY DECISIONS ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS HERE. :-) You want to get into our center quickly? You're going to have to take the train! Because the Republicans and the Democrats support it, and it's going to happen whether you like it or not.

      • What You Are Missing
        IndyTodd, if there were no existing way to make a reasonable daily commute from Fishers to downtown Indianapolis, your argument for a highway extension might be a bit more reasonable. Even if a highway extension could result in significant shortening of the commute, your argument would be strengthened. However, extending I-69 through downtown would at best shave off a few minutes of the existing commute time, and this time savings would be achieved only at the expense of destroying existing homes and businesses and decimating a neighborhood. The I-69 extension to Mexico will get along just fine with routing along I-465. Most people shipping goods on the new extended highway would prefer to circumvent the central city. Finally, you and the other pro-highway posters keep refusing to accept that the era of neighborhoods rolling over and letting highways devour them ended back in the late 1960's. As I've already stated, if a proposal to push I-69 through downtown were seriously pushed the lawsuits would rain down like bombs falling from the sky and blow the plan up to little bits. The reality is that there is neither the funds, the political will, nor the legal climate to support an I-69 extension through downtown. This proposal is DOA.
      • ummm NO!
        absolutely not - not unless it's tunneled under the city. I think what we need less of is highways and byways. Indy is like 90% car based - and we are only changing our behaviors slowly - let a little traffic congestion on the northside propel us forward faster.
      • Nah
        We definitely need much, much, more better mass transit, and I don't think we need a freeway through the northeast side of Indianapolis.

        However, it's ok to raise ideas and ask questions, even ones that have been discussed in the past.
      • Litigation

        You obviously don't know how eminent domain litigation works. It wouldn't tie up the project at all. The fight would be over the value of the property taken and, in the meantime, the government entity is allowed to go ahead and do the work.

        As far as those of you who are advocating mass transit, how many times does mass transit have to fail before people realize it's not a feasible option in Indianapolis? Not runing I-69 downtown was a huge mistake. It would lead to a lot less congestion, not more.
        • folly
          Paul -- perhaps you should stick to your area of expertise. There are reams of data that show that building additional roads and/or road capacity only very temporarily eases congestion. In surprisingly short order, new capacity ALWAYS becomes clogged as well. See Dallas, Atlanta, etc, for examples of the folly of this way of thinking.

          I'll also repeat the point that building this would only shaves minutes off the commute for NE-siders. If those minutes are supposedly so important, why haven't these people already moved closer to work?

          And as long as we're talking crazy: we could probably build brand new McMansions for a sizable chunk of people that wanted to live closer to work for the cost of building a new I69 into downtown and that would have the added advantage of PERMANENTLY removing them from the expressways.
        • A better idea...
          Why not just get rid of all interstates past I-465 and turn them into grand avenues with roundabouts at the intersections, where interchanges are today. Then you could take Binford Blvd to 6 lanes from 4 to act as the grand avenue from the northeast. Keystone Ave is already 6 lanes in the city, just add roundabouts. Also, Southeastern Ave and Crawfordsville Rd can be used for the I-74 avenue, and Kentucky Ave can be used for the new I-69 southwest route. Then that just leaves I-65 and I-70 to be changed over to avenues with roundabouts. This will allow old neighborhoods to reconnect with each other and allow for a more pedestrian and bike friendly areas.
          Also, the State Legislature should consider some type of city/town growth boundaries to slow down suburban growth and create more density in city/towns. This with Indy Connect could allow for reclamation of land from run downed neighborhoods into urban forest/parks to better the quality of living in the city.
          In the end this is a win/win for everyone.
        • Its about neighborhoods
          In my mind this isn't about Interstates vs mass transit. Its about stable neighborhoods vs urban blight. If you split a major population center (and NE marion county is a major population center) urban blight will not be too far behind (much much worse than it already is). Yes there is a need for urban freeways but you cannot ignore their negative impact. And I cannot think of a more stupid reason to invoke eminent domain. If this ever happened I'd move as quickly out of the Indy metro as I possibly could. Only very bad things would become of something like this.
        • first fix 69
          Priorities...they should first fix 37 and 69 right. If you ever have to drive up or down SR37/I69 (ie., Fishers exit)during morning and evening congestions you know what I am talking about...who's the quack's that came up with the last blown $ highway fixes there. I truly believe they have made both exits North and South onto 37 or 69 worse. Please fix whats there...first correctly before there is another bad accident.
        • Hoosier,
          Hoosier, the distance from I-465 and I-69 south to I-70 and then to downtown is about 14 miles. The Binford route is about nine miles, so the savings in distance traveled is five miles, or roughly a third of the current route. Layer in congestion as a factor on the existing route, and the conclusion of cutting the time by half is probably pretty conservative on many days. You might have a more accurate estimate.

          The point made by you and others about ending construction of highways through city centers is certainly legitimate. The point of the post was simply to raise the question; occasionally, building highways may make sense.

        • Seriously?
          Your point is only an assumption that it will relieve congestion (which it may in the short-term). And the distance, distance alone amounts to only 5-10 minutes of savings. Just because you cut a third of the distance, does not equate to cutting off a third of the time. Again, come back with solid modeling that shows it would cut the commute time in half. Because those 5-10 minutes of savings, will be lost very quickly.
        • IBJ
          Give them a break...the point of blogs are to do what the previous 40 people have done. Read the article (opinion) and get the readers to interact and discuss opinons.

          Blog well done
        • Not Quite
          Paul, you are incorrect. First, you ignore the fact that highways are often stopped not over eminent domain litigation, but over environmental impact litigation. Second, if eminent domain litigation means the government always wins, then why pray tell is the NK Hurst Bean Company factory still standing in its current location when the state initiated proceedings to seize its entire property for a public parking lot for Lucas Stadium? Why was the state forced to settle and significantly scale back on the amount of land it planned to take (in addition to paying Hurst much more money for the smaller portion of land that was taken)? It seems according to your argument, the state should have just been able to take the property, bulldoze the building and build the parking lot, and then haggle in court with Hurst about the cost of reimbursement after the fact.
        • Keystone plan
          Instead of upgrading and extending Binford into an extension of I-69, why not do with Binford something similar to the Keystone Parkway project in Carmel? Eliminating the traffic lights in favor of elevated roundabout interchanges would allow traffic to move smoother, would be less invasive and more aesthetically appealing. A new interchange should probably be added where Fall Creek, Binford and Allisonville all intersect as this area seems to get really congested. But once you get past 38th Street, I think the traffic moves very smoothly. --I wish IBJ had a LIKE button! :) Very concise, well-written and insightful response that corresponds to another response: Why not just turn them into grand avenues with roundabouts? Also, Southeastern Ave and Crawfordsville Rd can be used for the I-74 avenue, and Kentucky Ave can be used for the new I-69 southwest route. Then that just leaves I-65 and I-70 to be changed over to avenues with roundabouts. This will allow old neighborhoods to reconnect with each other and allow for a more pedestrian and bike friendly areas.
          Also, the State Legislature should consider some type of city/town growth boundaries to slow down suburban growth and create more density in city/towns. This with Indy Connect could allow for reclamation of land from run downed neighborhoods into urban forest/parks to better the quality of living in the city.
          Honestly, I know Marion County residents LOATHE Hamilton County/Carmel but speaking as a girl who grew up in Marion County (Pike Township), lived in Carmel during college (right by City Center, near the new Palladium), and now lives back downtown, the new Keystone is AWESOME. It is so nice to be able to avoid stoplights after 96th street! The only congestion is between 86th and 96th street, because of the 465 intersection. Just sayin'....

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        1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

        2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

        3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

        4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

        5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.