First-phase construction of Fishers’ Nickel Plate Trail kicked off last week, and the city will soon choose between two engineering firms bidding to build a troublesome tunnel in the downtown core.
Whitestown-based Calumet Civil Contractors upgraded the trail’s first intersection at Fishers Pointe Boulevard last week and is now starting its $3.64 million contract to pave the section between 106th and 126th streets. Though the downtown core is within that stretch, the segment between North and South streets and a pedestrian tunnel under 116th Street won’t open until fall of next year.
“One of the things that’s important for residents to know is that this is phase one of phase one,” Fishers spokeswoman Ashley Elrod said. “I don’t want the residents to be surprised that this phase of the trail is asphalt and doesn’t include necessarily all of the activities and experiences along the trail. That’s certainly planned and it’s to come in the near future, but this is simply to establish the trail with a foundation.”
The downtown section of the trail will be among the first to open. The remainder of Fishers’ 4.5 mile stretch of the Nickel Plate Trail between 96th and 146th streets will be developed over the next two decades.
The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion by November of this year and includes intersection improvements at 106th Street, Fishers Pointe Boulevard, North Street, Commercial Drive/Lantern Road, and 126th Street.
Elrod said the city of Fishers was initially unable to solicit a favorable bid for the construction of a pedestrian tunnel beneath 116th Street because of other large construction projects in central Indiana—like the Indiana Department of Transportation’s work on the I-70/I-65 split in downtown Indianapolis.
But the city plans to take bids for that next week from Indianapolis-based engineering firm Bowen and Fishers-based Meyer Najem.
“Even if the construction of the tunnel were to have happened this year as we’d planned, the tunnel would not have opened anyway until 2021,”Elrod said. “There’s a lot of coordination needed to integrate the trail.”
The contract will be awarded for spring 2021 so that the tunnel’s construction can run in tandem with Indianapolis-based Browning Investments’ $157 million mixed-use project on the north and south sides of 116th Street.
Elrod said the city specifically wanted to align the construction with Carmel-based CRG Residential’s planned five-story apartment building with 241 units, 10 town houses, office and retail space.
“We are collaborating with them so that the same wall for the foundation of their garage is the wall for the tunnel. It’s about efficiency and cost savings, and it’s a way to really integrate the tunnel,” Elrod said.
Perhaps the greatest change residents may see during the trail’s first phase of development is the extension of South Street to Fishers Center Drive, near used-car dealer Fritz in Fishers. Elrod said that connection is scheduled to open in July.
Despite the progress, Elrod said eager trail users will have to wait to get in their miles.
“Right now, we’ve had some mild usage of the rail bed. People running, biking, walking on it. It is an active construction site, so it is closed to pedestrian and biking traffic,” Elrod said. “It won’t necessarily be available for usage when that asphalt is laid, and it will remain that way until we’re able to complete that downtown core section.”
Combined with the Noblesville segment, the Nickel Plate Trail will run 9.2 miles from 96th Street in Fishers to Pleasant Street in Noblesville. Plans for the trail were announced in February 2017, and Fishers approved a property tax increase in 2018 to generate $7 million to $9 million for the first of three phases.