Carmel denied federal funds for Keystone, 96th Street project

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday announced the latest round of recipients for its competitive grant program, and the city of Carmel—which had been counting on those dollars to improve the 96th Street and Keystone Avenue intersection—was once again not on the list.

Carmel had requested $19.4 million from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant program for the $31.9 million proposed teardrop roundabout at 96th and Keystone—an intersection that has been overly congested and dangerous for years.

It’s not the first time the city has been denied TIGER funding. In 2010, Carmel also applied for financial assistance for the project, but at that time the intersection improvements would have cost $78 million.

Carmel officials were optimistic that the scaled-back request would be successful and had hoped to start right-of-way acquisition early next year. Construction could have started in summer 2017 and it would have been completed in 2019.

The intersection is the only one along the Keystone corridor in Carmel that hasn’t been upgraded to an elevated roundabout. Carmel has invested $112 million along the busy roadway to remove stoplights and install roundabouts over seven intersections within a five-mile stretch.

In August, Mayor Jim Brainard flew to Washington, D.C. for a two-day trip to meet with officials from the Department of Transportation to discuss the grant request. The trip cost $1,089, according to city documents the IBJ obtained through a public records request.

“We’re going to continue,” Brainard said of the project. “It just means we’ll have to use more local funds.”

He said he will introduce a bond proposal for several road projects to the Carmel City Council at the beginning of the year.

The project could still follow the same timeline, if not move quicker, according to Brainard.

Only one Indiana project was awarded funding under the program. The Ports of Indiana received $10 million for truck-to-rail and rail-to-water improvements.

The DOT said it granted $500 million for 39 transportation projects in 34 states. Rural areas received 43 percent of the project awards, a higher percentage than any previous year.

The department received 627 eligible applications from 50 states and several U.S. territories, requesting 20 times the $500 million available for the program.

“We know the statistics,” Brainard said. “We knew it was tough, tough competition.”

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