Anderson eyes improvements to I-69 corridors

Improvements to two major corridors from Interstate 69 to downtown Anderson, reconfigurations of complicated interchanges, and changing one-way streets to two-way streets are among Mayor Kevin Smith's goals.

And he is excited about what those improvements could mean for the city and downtown businesses.

Smith said that the two main corridors to downtown — routes from I-69 exits 22 and 26 — need to be aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate for visitors and potential investors.

The mayor doesn't have a set timeline, design or price tag for most of the improvements, so those are projects his engineering department will be undertaking.

The first corridor, which is the closest for people coming from Indianapolis and Hamilton County, goes from Exit 22, follows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and connects to Jackson Street through 17th Street. Jackson Street moves drivers into downtown.

Smith said he would like to continue making aesthetic upgrades that were begun during his first term as mayor, between January 2004 and December 2007. Among those projects was the addition of a series of red light poles along a section of MLK Boulevard to trademark the area as the Speedway district.

"We actively demolished (half a dozen) abandoned or vacant properties along the corridor and replanted them with vegetation and trees," Smith said.

"Our product to sell is Anderson, Ind. Our goal was to make that travel through there much more pleasing to the eye. We are also operating on the basis that it is more likely to attract new investment to the city."

The second corridor starts off Exit 26, goes north on Scatterfield Road, west on Mounds Road, merges with Ohio Avenue and then continues along Cincinnati Avenue. The corridor curves to the west until it reaches downtown.

Along that route there are two intersections that are problematic, Smith said, and he would like to change that.

Each intersection has three roads coming together in one spot, making things confusing for drivers, especially for visitors who are trying to get in and out of town, Smith said. And to make things worse, the two intersections are side-by-side.

Those interchanges include 18th Street, Huey Street and Columbus Avenue, and to the east of that, East Lynn Street, 18th Street and Ohio Avenue.

A new design hasn't been determined, but Smith would like to make some changes so the Exit 26 corridor is more navigable.

"Those are two intersections that will be a challenge to redesign because they are so close to the railroad," Smith said.

And Smith also wants to make sure that once drivers have made it downtown through the improved corridors that they also can move around there easily.

He believes that all the one-way streets can confuse drivers and make them go out of their way when coming in and out of downtown. He would like most of the streets to become two-way roads so people can more directly reach the business they are looking for and then can leave on the same roads they drove in on.

"A logical resolution that has been discussed before, and bears even greater discussion now is having the core of the city in a two-way street configuration, while allowing two outside corridors, one for north traffic and one for south, to bypass the downtown," Smith said.

Smith said that the one-way northbound street would be Central Avenue, and the southbound street would be Brown-Delaware. The rest would become two-way streets.

"This would facilitate people wanting to navigate the core downtown rather than navigate multiple blocks," he said. "There is not only the business-friendly issue, but this is also a green initiative. We want to make destination points much easier to access and you don't have to run your car motor as much."

The city and a group of residents and business owners are creating a committee that will further discuss what can be done to help improve downtown and draw more visitors, business and investors to downtown. The group will hold its first meeting later this month.

Kyle Morey, president of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, said the corridor and street improvements could be beneficial to downtown businesses.

"It is our opinion that it is a great improvement for commerce any time you can have roads that are prepared to connect traffic to commerce," he said. "It will be better for businesses any time you can improve transportation opportunities and the flow of traffic. Plus it gets things moving forward again and gets people working on the road projects."

Once the city gets a better idea of the intersection designs and aesthetic improvements it wants to make, it can seek federal funding.

As far as local funding, that will be another hurdle for the city, Smith said. He had been hoping to use funds from the wheel tax, but was disappointed when the Madison County Council voted last week to rescind the tax.

"If we want to continue to grow aesthetically and culturally and dynamically, we will have to be even more reliant on outside funding strings that might be available," he said. "Some of these upgrades are essential to the viability and competitiveness of the city."

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