Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007
As I wrote in part one, the Indianapolis Market Street ramp removal project started out with a good idea, tearing down an unsightly ramp for the betterment of the neighborhood, and succeeded only in moving the problem elsewhere. The solution is arguably worse than the problem. In this note I’ll say a few words about what should be done, with the understanding that the odds of this actually being adopted are near zero.
Firstly, start by redoing Market St. right, as a neighborhood serving street. This means ditching the suburban style TWLTL and replacing it with something like bike lanes on both sides of the street. I would also suggest removing the nuclear blue color on the real overpass in favor of something more subdued. An architect once advised against buying fancy trash cans, because they draw attention to what is, at the end of the day, a trash can. Given that this is a basic, no frills overpass, why draw attention to it, and away from the city, by painting it a hideously loud color? Using nuclear blue on the overpasses was the worst part of Hyperfix, which was an otherwise very successful project. No one passing through downtown Indy will even notice the skyline because they are too busy being blinded by that paint. Color matters greatly. Try to imagine the Golden Gate Bridge painted nuclear blue instead of international orange and ask yourself what that would do to the bridge and city.
Next, the Washington Street interchange. All of my suggestions revolve around making this an urban interchange, rather than the suburban, auto-oriented mega-interchange it is now.
- Five ramp turn lanes is ridiculous. This should be substantially reduced.
- Washington St. is already six lanes, so extra dedicated right turn lanes on Washington are not needed and should be removed. This isn’t 82nd and Allisonville after all.
- Maintain tighter turn radii to force cars to slow down instead of being able to swing through at curve full speed – and what’s more this would narrow the street crossing width for pedestrians and bicyclists. What pedestrian is going to want to cross the southbound on-ramp from Washington when it appears to be designed to let cars move free flowing onto it without even slowing down.
- Take the opportunity to reconstruct the side streets to narrow the interstate ROW, keeping in the mind the need to expand the freeway by one lane in each direction in the future.
- Provide extra-wide sidewalks, say 10-12 feet, on both sides of the street under the expressway.
- Include extensive landscaping, echoing that used near Circle Centre on Washington St., to buffer the pedestrian zone from the traffic lanes.
- Include bike lanes on Washington or otherwise allow for a protected pathway under the freeway.
- Include excellent street lighting, based on the Warehouse District models that I have advocated previously. Above all, don’t use the tower lighting that INDOT loves at interchanges.
- Decorative stop lights based on the Wholesale District design, as I’ve advocated previously. Even Noblesville is getting INDOT to install decorative street lamps at the I-69/Greeenfield Ave. interchange, so if INDOT uses standard mast arms here – or, the ultimate coup de grace for this interchange, stoplights dangling off wires – it would be a great disappointment.
I’m also not sold on the need for the Washington/Southeastern realignment. There’s a triangular plot of land in the southwest quadrant that would make a great pocket park. What’s more, there’s a neglected historical marker there showing the intersection of the National and Michigan Roads that should be restored and used as the centerpiece of the park. If the state really wants to realign Southeastern, it should do it through a parking lot to the east of the current proposal.
As for the Fletcher St. ramp, I see no reason to widen it.
The key objectives of these suggestions are:
- Help bridge the gap between downtown and the east side across the huge freeway barrier.
- Improve pedestrian and bicycle access/safety/friendliness along both the Washington and Market St. corridors.
- Meet the original goal of implementing a project to make the road serve the neighborhood, not just cars and suburban commuters.
- Dramatically improve aesthetics, while reinforcing an iconography for the city.
This is a $20 million project funded by earmarks. It would be unfortunate to see that money squandered on a project that has a good chance of ultimately being a failure due to a failure to consider the urban fabric of the city, not just automobiles. INDOT and the city should keep in mind why they want to tear down the Market St. ramp in the first place, and not just rebuild an even greater monstrosity one block to the south.
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