Noblesville signals support of State Road 37 overhaul

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Hamilton County Commissioners wrapped up the local-government leg of their State Road 37 road show Tuesday, asking Noblesville Common Council to consider a resolution endorsing a Keystone Parkway-like overhaul intended to ease congestion.

Fishers Town Council, which heard the same pitch from the three-member commission and its consulting team Aug. 4, will get a similar request as officials circle the wagons in preparations for talks with the Indiana Department of Transportation.

As IBJ reported in May, county officials are vetting a plan to replace nine signalized intersections with roundabout interchanges, aiming to reduce the drive time on—and across—a six-mile stretch from Interstate 69 to State Road 32.

If the locals sign off on the $243 million proposal, their representatives will begin discussions with the Indiana Department of Transportation about relinquishing ownership (and control) of the state road.

Project costs would be shared, but those details still need to be worked out. Consensus came first.

“If we’re not all singing from the same songbook, we don’t have a chance,” said Commissioner Steve Dillinger.

Council County members signaled their support for the plan in June, and the commissioners said they’ll meet next with business and property owners along the commercial corridor.

Noblesville councilors—and citizens—were enthusiastic about the project’s potential, if a bit nervous about the impact on businesses, both during construction and afterward.

But no one questioned the need to address the growing gridlock.

Dillinger explained the need to be proactive, pointing to commissioners’ decision to self-fund an expansion of 146th Street throughout the county long before the need was widely recognized.

“We filled the [commissioners’] courtroom with people who thought we had asphalt for brains,” he said Tuesday, and now rush-hour traffic regularly backs up on the east-west thoroughfare.  “I assure you, if we do nothing …”

“That’s not an option,” called out Dave Cox, the patriarch of family-owned Hare Chevrolet, a Noblesville fixture since 1847 (when W. Hare & Son made buggies and wagons). The dealership is located on State Road 37, just south of Town & Country Boulevard.

Rather than criticize the planned improvements or bemoan the construction hassle, he asked whether the proposal was grand enough. With the county’s growth not expected to slow anytime soon, Cox wants to make sure the improvements last.

“Make sure you think big enough and do it right, or don’t do it,” he advised the elected officials.

Indeed, Dillinger made it clear that all nine intersections would need to get roundabout interchanges for the plan to work, since any remaining stoplights would be massive choke points.

“Keystone works beautifully until you get to 96th Street,” Commissioner Christine Altman said of the one stoplight on Carmel’s Keystone Parkway.

The county also is planning a roundabout for the increasingly busy intersection of 146th and Allisonville Road, given its proximity to State Road 37.

If all the details can be worked out, construction is expected to take about three years. Intersections likely would be replaced in pairs, the consultants said.

Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear said he was skeptical when he first learned about the plan, but now he supports it.

“I’ve changed my mind over the past year,” he said.

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