Noblesville signals support of State Road 37 overhaul

August 27, 2014
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Hamilton County Commissioners wrapped up the local-government leg of their State Road 37 road show Tuesday, asking Noblesville Common Council to consider a resolution endorsing a Keystone Parkway-like overhaul intended to ease congestion.

Fishers Town Council, which heard the same pitch from the three-member commission and its consulting team Aug. 4, will get a similar request as officials circle the wagons in preparations for talks with the Indiana Department of Transportation.

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

If the locals sign off on the $243 million proposal, their representatives will begin discussions with the Indiana Department of Transportation about relinquishing ownership (and control) of the state road.

Project costs would be shared, but those details still need to be worked out. Consensus came first.

“If we’re not all singing from the same songbook, we don’t have a chance,” said Commissioner Steve Dillinger.

Council County members signaled their support for the plan in June, and the commissioners said they’ll meet next with business and property owners along the commercial corridor.

Noblesville councilors—and citizens—were enthusiastic about the project’s potential, if a bit nervous about the impact on businesses, both during construction and afterward.

But no one questioned the need to address the growing gridlock.

Dillinger explained the need to be proactive, pointing to commissioners’ decision to self-fund an expansion of 146th Street throughout the county long before the need was widely recognized.

“We filled the [commissioners’] courtroom with people who thought we had asphalt for brains,” he said Tuesday, and now rush-hour traffic regularly backs up on the east-west thoroughfare.  “I assure you, if we do nothing …”

“That’s not an option,” called out Dave Cox, the patriarch of family-owned Hare Chevrolet, a Noblesville fixture since 1847 (when W. Hare & Son made buggies and wagons). The dealership is located on State Road 37, just south of Town & Country Boulevard.

Rather than criticize the planned improvements or bemoan the construction hassle, he asked whether the proposal was grand enough. With the county’s growth not expected to slow anytime soon, Cox wants to make sure the improvements last.

“Make sure you think big enough and do it right, or don’t do it,” he advised the elected officials.

Indeed, Dillinger made it clear that all nine intersections would need to get roundabout interchanges for the plan to work, since any remaining stoplights would be massive choke points.

“Keystone works beautifully until you get to 96th Street,” Commissioner Christine Altman said of the one stoplight on Carmel’s Keystone Parkway.

The county also is planning a roundabout for the increasingly busy intersection of 146th and Allisonville Road, given its proximity to State Road 37.

If all the details can be worked out, construction is expected to take about three years. Intersections likely would be replaced in pairs, the consultants said.

Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear said he was skeptical when he first learned about the plan, but now he supports it.

“I’ve changed my mind over the past year,” he said.

  • Keystone and 96th
    I believe the issue with keystone & 96th was due to running out of funds though there were other factors. I just hope that a similar situation does not befall ST RD 37 where only half of the overhaul gets built.
  • Money is no problem for Fadness.
    Don't worry Mary Mayor elect Fadness will do what he has always done. Use TIF money to fund the construction. When the school district starts to run out of money he will write a letter to the state. I can't wait until HSE asks taxpayers to pass a new referendum and Fadness wastes err I mean spends that money on down town development.
  • Just a matter of time
    Mary, I've heard from several people that adding an interchange at 96th and Keystone is an 'when' not 'if' project. Brainard had tried and failed on at least one or more occasions applying for federal funds saying it's a shovel-ready project but ultimately that won't stop the project from getting done. I had also heard that completion of the interchange is on hold until the US 31 Hamilton County project wraps up at the end of 2015. If I was a betting man, I'd say before the end of the decade you'll see the elimination of the 96th street stoplight.
    • Let's Hope
      Let's hope they do it right and not like Carmel. The reason 96th isn't done is because there were no funds and Brainard under estimated (err lied) about the cost. Plus the business at that intersection don't want it, they could care less about people moving people North to Westfield faster. The interchanges are too narrow and the road is not up to spec for heavy traffic. Here's hoping that Ham County can get this one right.
      • 96th stop light
        The stop light is still at 96th because the state DOT still "controls" that intersecton, not because there were no funds or money ran out. If you notice, there were also stop lights installed at the interchange with 465 when they re-did that, which was well after the Keystone roundabouts were complete. It boiled down to poor planning, and no desire by the state to spend more money for what they viewed as not being necessary.
      • Bikes and Pedestrians?
        In the redesign they need to remember people live and work on opposite sides of 37. Currently there is no way to walk or ride a bike from one side of 37 to the other which makes the road into a man made barrier for all pedestrians and cyclists. They need to be included in the redesign.
      • skeptical
        $243 mill seems like a lowball estimate...certainly it will cost more than that. The traffic is kind of bad, but doesn't warrant this kind of overhaul that will certainly reduce business for folks along 37.
      • Let's Hope rebuttal
        With regard to Steve's latter comment, I don't understand your reasoning. The Keystone interchanges are not too narrow and the road can certainly handle heavy traffic. It's a breeze to drive it. The semis will be back on 31 in no time.
      • Roundabouts
        I'm a fan of roads and transit - so this kind of thing interests me. Roundabouts? Not so much! About Keystone Parkway: If I'm going somewhere on Rangleline Road, I will take the 106th Street Roundabout simply to avoid the 116th Street Roundabout. It is at that one, I a;ways feel like I'm having to cut it close with someone coming from the left and some tool will pull out in front of me, from the right. Maddening! I've also, been about rearended, when I chose to allow a car with right of way to proceed. Imagine that! Much further to the South and East, the Roundabout at SR 238 (aka Southeastern Pkwy), Olio Road and 136th Street is JUST NUTS! I have wound up going over I-69, on the new Olio Road extension, instead of heading to exit 210. Back to 37, I would rather these interchanges feature Singal Point Urban Interchanges. Google it. Yes there is a light but there shouldn't be a choke point. You can see them in use at 465 and Allisonville and 465 and Emerson, in Beech Grove. At one time the state wanted to remove the designation as a state highway and move 37 along I-69 until the SR 13 lapel/Fortville exit. Wonder if that is still on the books?

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      1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

      2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

      3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

      4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

      5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.