County continues to build case for State Road 37 overhaul

June 5, 2014
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Hamilton County officials are circling the wagons to prepare for negotiations over the future of State Road 37.

As IBJ reported last month, leaders looking to ease congestion on the commercial corridor are considering a Keystone Parkway-like overhaul from Interstate 69 in Fishers to State Road 38 in Noblesville.

Replacing the existing signalized intersections with roundabout interchanges would cost about $243 million and require buy-in (literally and figuratively) from the county, the town of Fishers, the city of Noblesville and the Indiana Department of Transportation, which now owns the thoroughfare.

“It always comes down to money,” said Christine Altman, president of the three-member commission. “We need to figure out how to eat the elephant.”

So county commissioners on Wednesday brought in experts from Indianapolis engineering firms American Structurepoint and United Consulting to brief County Council members on the problem and potential solutions.

The consultants said four intersections along the six-mile stretch already are operating with unacceptable delays—more than 80 seconds is considered “failing”—and more are on the brink as growth continues.

“Congestion affects quality of life,” American Structurepoint’s Greg Kasinski, showing an aerial photo of a one-mile-long traffic backup along the highway during morning rush hour.

Congestion creates problems with air quality and noise pollution, he said, and snarled traffic on State Road 37 will cost motorists $1 billion over the next 20 years if nothing changes.

“It’s tough to get around,” agreed United Consulting’s Dave Richter.

That can be a turn off to businesses that want to know how long it takes to get to the airport or downtown Indianapolis, he said, potentially affecting economic development.

Although INDOT is aware of the problem, the agency has no projects in the works. If the locals want to control timing and design of improvements on 37, they could ask to take over the road from the state, as Carmel did with Keystone.

“You need to be proactive and take control” to get a solution that works for the highway, Richter said.

Officials said preliminary discussions with the state and other key stakeholders went well, but countless details still need to be addressed before finalizing a proposal.

The consulting team will make similar presentations to leaders in Fishers and Noblesville to make sure everyone is on board before putting pencil to paper.  County Councilor Brad Beaver said funding for the project will need to come from multiple sources: the municipalities, the county, the state and the federal government.

"I have no problem being the lead agency on this, but I don't want [the county] to be the lead funding agency," he said.

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  • Time is Now
    GET IT DONE.
  • lead funding agency?
    The latest example of a county allowing an area to be over-developed in the interest of padding their coffers with tax revenue, only to expect someone else to foot the bill to bail them out of their poor planning and lack of adequate infrastructure to support said development... How many times is this going to repeat itself?
    • Lights
      I have heard through articles and general discussions that this "unacceptable delays" mentioned in the article can be somewhat alleviated by simply changing the timing of the lights. Having driven this stretch for about a year for work, I would think this would help at least a little bit without having to gut the taxpayers for more money.
    • Ped / Bike Crossing
      This plan should be required to create pedestrian and bike crossings at every single intersection with SR37. It's ridiculous that there is no connection between the East and West sides of the street unless you're in an automobile.
    • Town?
      Fishers is a city...not a town!
    • Town?
      Fishers is a city..not a town!
    • walk?
      @ Willow . Walk? Who moves to Fishers with expectation that they can walk places? The whole town is built to a scale for automotive travel. It'd take 5 minutes just to cross all 102 lanes of SR 37 on foot.
    • Biggest concern
      Is how the Keystone Ave overhaul killed businesses along that road. There is some rebound starting, but the biggest concern I would have is over all the businesses which are just being built or have recently opened. Business located there at a premium so they could have that accessibility and visibility to all the traffic that passes. Turning it into a Keystone type project will harm that accessibility and visibility considerably. It would need to be planned very very carefully and I would hope they will keep the viability of businesses in mind, which the city of Carmel did not - to the detriment of Merchants Square.
    • By the way
      I agree with Ben. The first step in the process should be to work on efficiency with the current stoplight system. It is absolutely painful to cross 37 on 126th, 131st or 146th at certain times of day, especially eastbound during evening rush hours.
      • Painful
        It is just as painful to sit on 37 through multiple cycles of stoplights to watch 1/2 (or less) the number of cars that are traveling on 37 north or south cross 37, especially at 141st and 146th streets, during morning and evening rush hour. INDOT needs to adjust the timing at these stoplights so that traffic flow on 37 is the PRIORITY, and not provide equal time to the side streets. There is no excuse for the traffic on 141st and 146th streets to have a green light as long as the traffic on 37. Those are the two obvious candidtaes for improvements in efficiency. And add a new interchange on 69 between 116th street and HTC exit. Not at 106th street.
      • good, bad, and ugly
        Indeed. This is going to blow so bad for me since I take I69 to SR37 to go to work. It's not so bad for me during my driving time. I just wish they had thought of and done before I got my recent new job at that location.
      • Constant construction
        And how do you think the drive time is going to be during the year or more, that this takes place? How long have they been doing construction on 69 in various places between 465 and miles north? How's the drive time been there during construction? Isn't it time to give people a break for a while?

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      1. The $104K to CRC would go toward debts service on $486M of existing debt they already have from other things outside this project. Keystone buys the bonds for 3.8M from CRC, and CRC in turn pays for the parking and site work, and some time later CRC buys them back (with interest) from the projected annual property tax revenue from the entire TIF district (est. $415K / yr. from just this property, plus more from all the other property in the TIF district), which in theory would be about a 10-year term, give-or-take. CRC is basically betting on the future, that property values will increase, driving up the tax revenue to the limit of the annual increase cap on commercial property (I think that's 3%). It should be noted that Keystone can't print money (unlike the Federal Treasury) so commercial property tax can only come from consumers, in this case the apartment renters and consumers of the goods and services offered by the ground floor retailers, and employees in the form of lower non-mandatory compensation items, such as bonuses, benefits, 401K match, etc.

      2. $3B would hurt Lilly's bottom line if there were no insurance or Indemnity Agreement, but there is no way that large an award will be upheld on appeal. What's surprising is that the trial judge refused to reduce it. She must have thought there was evidence of a flagrant, unconscionable coverup and wanted to send a message.

      3. As a self-employed individual, I always saw outrageous price increases every year in a health insurance plan with preexisting condition costs -- something most employed groups never had to worry about. With spouse, I saw ALL Indiana "free market answer" plans' premiums raise 25%-45% each year.

      4. It's not who you chose to build it's how they build it. Architects and engineers decide how and what to use to build. builders just do the work. Architects & engineers still think the tarp over the escalators out at airport will hold for third time when it snows, ice storms.

      5. http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/duke-energy-customers-angry-about-money-for-nothing

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