Indy Chamber joins group advocating for alternative north-split design

The Indy Chamber is adding its voice to a coalition raising concerns about the Indiana Department of Transportation’s planned north-split project.

INDOT is in the early design phase to reconstruct the north split—the I-65/I-70 interchange on the northeast edge of downtown. It will be at least 2019 before construction begins. The estimated price tag is $250 million.

This month, numerous individuals and groups began voicing concerns about the project, which calls for adding lanes on both interstates, widening some bridges and adding others, and reconfiguring the I-65 exit and entrance ramps along 11th and 12th streets.

The coalition is largely made up of individuals and organizations with concerns about the project’s impact on adjacent neighborhoods. The group—which now includes the Indy Chamber—hopes to persuade INDOT to seriously consider alternative ideas.

“We are lending our voice and our support to the consideration of alternatives,” said Mark Fisher, the chamber’s chief policy officer. “There are alternative concepts out there that merit additional consideration.”

One of those alternatives was developed by local urban designers Kevin Osburn of Rundell Ernstberger Associates and Meg Storrow and John Kinsella of Storrow Kinsella Associates.

Their idea, which this month began appearing online and on social media posts, proposes turning the existing downtown interstates into what’s called a multimodal road that would include space for pedestrian walkways and landscaping. Through traffic would be routed either onto I-465 or through downtown underground tunnels.

Fisher said the chamber will invite Osburn, Storrow and Kinsella to present their ideas to the chamber’s membership, although at this point the chamber is not endorsing any particular alternative.

As more information develops, Fisher said, the chamber may well endorse a specific plan. 

For its part, INDOT says it already has met with some of the coalition members and is considering the ideas from Osburn, Storrow and Kinsella. INDOT noted that its planning process includes room for public input.

“Those didn’t fall on deaf ears,” INDOT spokesman Andy Dietrick said of the designers’ ideas.

In assessing alternatives, Dietrick said, INDOT considers a range of factors, including cost and engineering feasibility, as well as impact on everything from traffic and historic structures to noise and local businesses.

At the same time, Dietrick said INDOT is “not in a position to take a significant pause” in the project.

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