Interstate 70 shortcut getting an obstacle

May 18, 2010

A popular shortcut for west-side Indianapolis motorists heading south on Interstate 465 to get to eastbound I-70 is about to be spoiled by that most vile, three-eyed monster.

A traffic signal.

The Indiana Department of Transportation has eliminated the existing flyover ramp from plans to rebuild the Sam Jones Expressway interchange at I-465, formerly known as Airport Expressway.

Westsiders who've attended INDOT’s public meetings may have picked up on the final design, but word of the design change is slowly wafting to the motoring masses.

For years, motorists southbound on I-465 have used the flyover ramp to zip onto eastbound Sam Jones, then go a mile or so and merge onto I-70 East.

The unpleasant alternative was to travel another mile south on I-465, then shoehorn onto a short ramp shared with cars pouring onto I-465 from westbound I-70.

The white-knuckle procedure also requires motorists to slow quickly to avoid flipping over while curving sharply right on a cloverleaf that shoots them onto I-70 East.

Under INDOT’s final plan for the Sam Jones interchange, southbound I-465 motorists will drive straight to a traffic signal atop Sam Jones. When the light turns green, they can turn left and proceed the mile or so down the road to the I-70 interchange.

Say it isn’t so, I-465 regulars will cry.

INDOT says it's out to rid the interstate of “substandard” cloverleafs.

Specific to Sam Jones, the agency notes that the airport terminal has moved west and the volume of traffic on Sam Jones isn't what it used to be.

Also, building a new eastbound flyover ramp to replace the existing one at Sam Jones isn’t as simple as it sounds given other reconfigurations planned for the interchange, said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield.

Cheer up, he says: “The light will obviously be timed according to traffic movements.”

Unfortunately, faith in traffic-signal timing ranks about as high as belief in the Easter Bunny among impatient motorists.

INDOT offers further consolation, noting that it simultaneously will be reconfiguring the I-465/I-70 interchange a mile to the south.

To go from southbound I-465 to eastbound I-70, motorists will use an improved version of the cloverleaf that winds them around to the right and onto eastbound I-70.

But INDOT plans to build a collector/distributor ramp separated from I-465 southbond. Motorists will enter this collector ramp farther north on I-465.

Motorists entering southbound I-465 from westbound I-70 will still enter the highway at that same pinch point, but they’ll not have to be in such a hurry to merge onto I-70 because the new collector/distributor lane will take them further south before merging onto I-465 south.

Motorists headed southbound on I-465 wishing to drive to the new airport terminal will be able to take a new set of dedicated lanes running alongside I-70 to the new terminal exit, without having to merge onto I-70 proper.

The Sam Jones and I-70 interchanges are expected to cost roughly $88 million, combined. Construction is already underway on both.  

A closer look can be found at INDOT’s website.


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