LETTER: A highway with a net gain of green. Why not?

“What can we do to make the gray go away in our downtown?”

In 2014, then-Mayor Greg Ballard came to Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc. and asked us that very question. Indianapolis’ ’60s-era interstate system, which reinforced our reputation as The Crossroads of America, had negative, transformative impacts on city neighborhoods and downtown. All that concrete troubled the mayor. With his urging, KIB, Lilly, Downtown Indy and Arts Council of Indianapolis engaged adjacent neighborhoods, helping residents reclaim and renew dark, loud and dingy places with vibrant public art.

Years earlier, Young & Laramore had also come to KIB with an idea. Employees asked if we could plant trees to buffer their business, which is located in the shadow of I-70’s north split. With financial and volunteer support from Y&L, we planted trees that are now a 10-year-old forest creating value for Y&L’s employees—and for others in the vicinity. Many more tree plantings followed, softening commuters’ experiences as they go from city streets to federal highways.

KIB and our partners have invested more than $1 million in planting and maintaining more than 1,200 trees and creating 11 large-scale works of art in the 65/70 split.

As INDOT considers its options to repair and modify downtown interstate infrastructure and traffic patterns, we hope that INDOT sincerely considers the input of the neighbors who will be most impacted.

Here are KIB’s questions for INDOT planners:

How will changes to the downtown interstates keep and add powerful gains for quality of life, public health, beauty, and the environment?

What will be done to minimize “the gray” and add vibrancy instead of detracting from a downtown community whose workforce and visitors contribute so much to Indiana’s economic well-being?

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David Forsell
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful president

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