Brainard defends Keystone project

Hamilton County — Politicians seldom sign letters admitting their mistakes. But
Carmel Mayor James Brainard is willing to
eat a little crow over Project CarmelLink: up to $52 million worth.

"I will admit that I was overly optimistic in my original position of how much it would take to complete this project,"
Brainard
said in an Oct. 31 letter to Carmel residents. "In addition, several factors beyond our control have affected our costs."

Project CarmelLink is Brainard’s plan to physically lower congested Keystone Avenue and build roundabout interchanges at its
major cross streets. He developed it as an alternative to the Indiana Department of Transportation’s original proposal to
widen Keystone and build traditional "tight diamond" interchanges.

Brainard, a Republican, originally estimated Project CarmelLink could be paid for with the $90 million Carmel received from
Indiana’s $3.8 billion Indiana Toll Road lease. He pegged the project’s total expense at $112 million, but anticipated that
cost under runs and interest earnings on the $90 million would cover the difference.

That’s clearly no longer the case. In the Oct. 31 letter, Brainard explained that construction expenses have risen dramatically.
He also said Carmel’s current cost estimates, based on detailed surveys, soil samples, architectural drawings and construction
bids, are more reliable than his preliminary estimates

Brainard now predicts the project will cost $130 million to $142 million. He proposes covering the $40 million to $52 million
deficit by redirecting funds from other parts of Carmel’s development budget.

"Despite what you might have heard, residential property tax payments will not increase if we fund the additional costs,
nor
will taxes decrease if we don’t fund the project," Brainard wrote. "I am proposing that we reallocate funds that
were intended
for the fast-growing areas in the northwestern area of the city that has slowed in growth as a result of the housing market."

At its Nov. 3 meeting, Carmel’s City Council balked at immediately offering the extra funds. The council will consider the
matter again Nov. 17. Brainard argues Project CarmelLink is still necessary, even if it may be up to 58 percent more expensive
than expected.

"I remain steadfast in my conviction that the Keystone CarmelLink project is the most important road project Carmel has
built
or will build in the next 50 years," he wrote. "Completing this project as it was designed is critical to our infrastructure,
delivery of a much safer corridor, continued economic development of the City, the property value of homes near Keystone,
and the future viability and success of the Merchants Square area businesses."

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.