State Road 37 overhaul plan inches forward

August 5, 2014
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The facts aren’t in dispute: Congestion on State Road 37 in Hamilton County must be addressed before development along the commercial corridor turns it into a parking lot.

But easing rush-hour backups along the highway won’t be cheap or easy.

As IBJ reported in May, county officials are vetting a plan to replace signalized intersections with roundabout interchanges on a six-mile stretch from Interstate 69 to State Road 32, aiming to reduce the drive time from 30 minutes to less than 10.

But pulling off the $243 million plan also would require buy-in from leaders in the town of Fishers, city of Noblesville and the Indiana Department of Transportation, which now controls the road.

“Local control is just essential,” said Christine Altman, president of the three-member county commission.

So commissioners and a team of consultants on Monday briefed Fishers Town Council on the problem and proposed solution in hopes of building consensus before what promises to be lengthy negotiations.

Council County members signed off on the plan in June, and a similar presentation to the Noblesville Common Council is scheduled for Aug. 24.

Commissioner Christine Altman said the county’s not asking for financial commitments—yet—but officials want to make sure the partners are on the same page before proceeding with a formal request to take over the highway.

Once that process begins, it likely will take about three years to finalize ownership and financing before seeking bids from contractors, engineer Dave Richter of United Consulting said. The work itself is expected to take five construction seasons.

Only four of Fishers’ seven councilors attended the Monday briefing, but they seemed to like the idea of implementing a Keystone Parkway-like overhaul to address air pollution, noise concerns and connectivity issues.

Member David George wasn’t as keen on the idea of owning the road, though, since the locals also would be responsible for any future improvements.

“That could be big money,” he said. “In 30 years, we might wish we hadn’t done that.”

Town Manager Scott Fadness, who is poised to become Fishers’ first mayor when it becomes a city Jan. 1, said the municipality already is facing “hidden costs” from the State Road 37 congestion, as more drivers take to local roads to avoid traffic tie-ups.

The town is looking at upgrading Cumberland Road and other increasingly busy north-south thoroughfares, he said.

Roundabout interchanges also would ease congestion on east-west routes, Richter and American Structurepoint’s Greg Kasinski said, better connecting the communities on either side of what is now a major barrier.

And free-flowing traffic would be an advantage for economic development, they said, since businesses depend on customers and suppliers having reliable access.

“If we do nothing … the effects on those businesses will be devastating,” said Commissioner Steve Dillinger.

Fadness said the Fishers council will discuss the proposal before deciding whether to support the plan.

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  • Ped / Bike Crossing
    This idea should be a non starter if they don't address the fact that you can't walk or ride a bike from one side of 37 to the other. It currently serves as a giant scar in Hamilton County that blocks bike traffic.
  • Fix the light !
    I think if they just fix the light at 126th street, it will solve 90% of the backups. That light needs to be green for 5 times longer that it is. In fact, all the lights along that corridor need to be green longer. It also doesn't help that the police give people tickets for driving down the shoulder when they are actually relieving some of the congestion. Please just fix the lights.
    • Lights
      Having driven down this stretch between I69 and 146th St for about a year for work, I would agree with an earlier comment that simply fixing the lights timing would be a huge help. It also couldn't hurt to add a lane or two for people turning either right or left. Adding turn lanes would cost a lot less and wouldn't cause as many headaches for travelers and business owners vs this massive potential project.
    • $$$$
      You guys, fixing the timing on the lights might solve the problem, but its not going to line the pockets of campaign contributors (eg highway lobby).
    • Light timing
      Although changing the light timing would help with north-south traffic, extending the greens on SR 37 will lengthen the time it takes to cross the highway headed east or west -- creating more of a barrier. At least that's the argument.
    • Short Sighted
      Come on folks comments saying just increase green time on SR 37 are through commuters who care little about us who live in and around this antiquated highway. Increasing green time kills crossing traffic green time and will impede school busses and kids driving to school all who have to cross 37 to get to Fishers High. Extended red times for east-west traffic trying to head south on 37 would be devastating to those living adjacent to the corridor as well. Don't listen to the NIMBYs who only want to drive through. Then as Willow mentioned pedestrian and bicycle access across 37 is non existent and life threating if one ventures to try. The road in its present configuration cannot remain. It needs to be converted into a Keystone Parkway-like facility that benefits all of us, well except adjacent retail establishments. Those I feel can be sacrificed for the good of us all. Besides does anyone besides the Town Council want 37 to continue as auto dealer row? They are the ones who let Structurepoint add another stoplight without pedestrian access at 135 Street for what? Another typical suburban tract retail joint that was supposed to be a waterpark/hotel that never happened and a few car dealers who should have located where the other car dealers went out of business. Let's strive to grow beyond the mentality of the current town council who thinks it 1994. We nearby residents will appose any attempt to maintain the status quo of a facility that fails to meet our needs for auto, bicycle and pedestrian access to, and through the great barrier known as SR 37.
    • 5x Longer?
      You seem to be ignoring the fact that one of the current issues with 37 that need to be addressed is the difficulty in traveling from east to west or vice versa. If the green on 37 is 5 times longer it would effectively make it impossible to travel east/west.

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