Broad Ripple business owners express frustration at another construction project

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Broad Ripple Avenue in Broad Ripple Village. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Business owners in Broad Ripple are expressing frustration as the Indianapolis Department of Public Works prepares to start on a major new construction project even before wrapping up a lengthy road overhaul on the entertainment district’s main strip that has drawn out well past the expected end date.

Business owners said they felt blindsided last week when they were told by city officials about the planned reconstruction of Westfield Boulevard bridge over the Indiana Central Canal—a $4.7 million project will require lane restrictions and a 100-day street closure. The meeting took place less than a week before the project began Monday and is expected to be completed by summer.

Numerous business owners contacted by IBJ don’t dispute that the bridge, which DPW officials say is structurally sound but among the worst in the county, needs to be replaced. Where they take issue with the project is the timing—following a traffic-crippling reconstruction of Broad Ripple Avenue in the the core of the village—and what they contend is a lack of communication before the start.

Jordan Dillon, president of the Broad Ripple Village Association, or BRVA, has a call with the DPW every two weeks. The bridge project hasn’t been mentioned in any of those recent calls, she told IBJ.

“[The BRVA’s] goal is to be a partner and a bridge between the city and this community that we serve,” Dillon said. “And it’s been really hard to do that because it seems like the stream of information is not flowing in a way to make that successful partnership happen.”

Dillon acknowledged that there had been some conversations about the bridge project prior to the Monday meeting. But, those conversations occurred at a public meeting in late fall 2022, at which the department shared intentions to begin the bridge project in January 2023. 

After the city was unsuccessful in bidding out the project, the department told a members-only meeting of the BRVA that the bridge project had been put on hold, Dillon told IBJ.

In a statement, DPW spokesman Corey Ohlenkamp said conversations about the bridge replacement have been going on for more than a decade. Work by Citizens Energy Group and AES Indiana on utility relocation began Dec. 11 and should be be completed Dec. 23. The Department of Public Works is set to start work on the bridge Jan. 8, instituting a full closure of Westfield Boulevard until April 16.

Construction around the roadway will continue afterward, but the roadway is expected to be open to traffic from April 17 until July 31, which is the substantial completion date for the project, the statement said.

“Full completion, landscaping and other punch out items that we would call a full closeout of the project, is in September,” Ohlenkamp wrote in an email.

However, after the ongoing Broad Ripple Avenue project missed its expected completion date by most of a year, business owners are finding it hard to trust the city’s newest timeline.

Andy Skinner, owner of Indy CD and Vinyl, 806 Broad Ripple Ave., was initially optimistic when construction on Broad Ripple Avenue began last year. 

“After the initial grumbling, I think people will come to understand this is all certainly for the greater good,” Skinner told IBJ in April 2022.

However, with that project still dragging on, Skinner said he’s concerned about length of the bridge reconstruction.

“There just seems to be no level of trust whatsoever from the businesses in Broad Ripple when it comes to the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Public Works,” Skinner told IBJ. “They’re going to do what they’re going to do no matter what, we’re just going to have to live with it.”

Skinner said this was exemplified by the timing of last week’s meeting just a few days before the start of utility relocation. Additionally, he said city officials in attendance were unable to answer some questions from concerned business owners.

The reconstruction of Broad Ripple Avenue began April 6, 2022. When the project was first announced, it was expected to wrap up in spring 2023. The final touches on the project, such as cleanup and tree planting, should be complete by Christmas, according to the DPW.

For Skinner, whose record store relies heavily on foot traffic, any construction that makes it more difficult to reach Broad Ripple during the holiday season is especially concerning. He understands that government work is difficult and slow, but said there doesn’t appear to be a compelling reason why the project needs to begin in December.

The beginning of the project will require lane closures staffed by flaggers, Ohlenkamp said. 

The timing of the bridge construction is constrained by a contract that only allows work in the canal from January to April, along with a deadline to use federal infrastructure funding that will pay for most of the project, the statement added. The city also worked to avoid conflicts with work on Broad Ripple Avenue.

“The bridge replacement was set for construction several years ago, but a failure of the Emrichsville Dam in 2018 led to an emergency declaration that stopped all work along the levee and canal until the dam could be replaced by Citizens Energy Group,” Ohlenkamp wrote in an email. “This work allowed water services to continue to be provided for the entire county. By the time that project was completed, work had started on the Broad Ripple Avenue project.”

Now, BRVA members are looking toward a private meeting with city officials  on Dec. 21, during which some merchants plan to ask for grant dollars for affected businesses and promotional materials for the entertainment district.

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13 thoughts on “Broad Ripple business owners express frustration at another construction project

    1. The article explains very clearly why the bridge construction is starting now and why it has to be done now. Would you rather the city forfeit millions of federal funds and be left with a dangerous and decaying bridge?

      Road construction is a fact of life everywhere. Yes, it is not fun, but most of life falls into the “not fun” category—you just suck it up and deal with it.

  1. Boss Hogsett could care less about BRip or Downtown.

    He enjoys allowing the crime to fester and business owners struggle.

    Frankly it’s as disgusting at the Red Line to no where.

    There is no other rationale at this point and voters just keep pressing Pothole Joe’s name on voting machines like a Chipotle line worker…

    1. Good Lord, now necessary road construction is “disgusting?” I hope you are at least getting paid minimum wage to post this nonsense partisan drivel. It is embarrassing for you.

      The rest of us prefer not to fall into the water when using a bridge to cross it. Road construction happens *everywhere*, and it is always miserable while it goes on. Put on your big boy pants and get over it.

  2. Chris B… do you own a business in Broadripple?

    If you don’t own a business in Broadripple, how many years could you afford to lose 50% of your income?

    1. I feel bad for the businesses. We should help them. Another way to look at their complaints is that they’re getting a lot of road funding while other areas of Marion County are continuing to fall apart. I’d love to have the road outside my home closed for a couple months so it can be rebuilt and it no longer sounds like a car crash as cars pass over the potholes that open up every year.

  3. Exactly. The business owners of Broad Ripple are fed up.

    How many potholes have to go without repair or crime increasing constantly before we all say the Mayor and his administration has failed?

    This endless construction has definitely harmed, business owners in BRip. This isn’t partisan or debatable.

    And a failure at your elected job isn’t a partisan issue, the guy can barely stay out of rehab let alone take out his trash, without allegedly smashing his face on the driveway.

    1. And he still walloped his opponent, who spend eight figures to tell us he would do the same things as Hogsett (but just a little different) while hiring a public safety director and not explaining what difference that would make.

      The problem isn’t Hogsett. It’s that the gas tax money from Indianapolis is getting stolen by the rest of the state. Go take out your anger on Aaron Freeman or Mike Speedy or Mike Young or Mike Crider or Kyle Walker or Cyndi Carrasco or Julie McGuire or Chris Jeter. That’s just a few of the Republicans representing Marion County who sit on their hands every year. Ask them where the money is.

  4. Marion County/Indianapolis is trying to play catch-up after years of infrastructure neglect. As is most of Central Indiana, especially Hamilton County. For decades roads and sidewalks, in particular, have been neglected and not repaired. You don’t fix potholes by putting in more filler asphalt. You fix them by shutting down the road and taking it back to its base, and rebuilding from the base. Most of these roads were designed and built in the 60’s, if not before. They weren’t built for all the trucks, pick up and larger, and SUVs, that now travel them. They weren’t built for the volume of traffic. When I-465 was designed back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, planners did not believe the population of Indianapolis/Marion County would ever grow to more than about 800,000 people, and similar low population for the surrounding counties. They never foresaw bumper to bumper on 465. City streets were similarly poorly designed and maintained. Ditto city sewer systems. We didn’t have street lights because the City wouldn’t pay the electric company to run the necessary infrastructure to have street lights. Why? Because Republican City County Councils could brag about low taxes, and kick the problem down the road. Well, we’ve been down the road for many years now, and the work needs to be done.

    If federal funds are available because of the infrastructure law, let’s take advantage of them. Let’s get the bridges and roads and sidewalks redesigned and rebuilt, and get caught up from years of neglect. Let’s get the Legislature to properly fund Indy streets…a mile of 2 lane road in rural Indiana should not have the same financing as a mile of 6 lane road in Indianapolis handling multiples more in traffic.

  5. I do feel bad for the BR Merchants, and I am certainly no fan of DPW or the current administration, but to say the project came out of the blue shows that the Merchants need to make more effort to be informed. Within the last year both the IBJ and the Indy Star have reported that the project would start soon after the BR Avenue project was completed. (put me in Cristopher & Joes camp).

    I do truly hope the Merchants are able to survive this long and difficult construction project so that they can enjoy the brand new beautiful Avenue. (it was only 2 years ago that many of them had to regularly sandbag their front doors).

  6. Perhaps there’s some room in the budget to assist the merchants while the work is being done. It appears this will be done (if it goes to schedule) by late Spring or early summer…in time for the summer bar season.

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