Monday, June 11th, 2007

Indianapolis Outer Loop

There’s an “outer beltway” of sorts taking shape in Indianapolis. It isn’t an outer freeway loop a la the ill-fated Indiana Commerce Connector proposal. Rather it is a series of interlinked crosstown roadways in the collar counties, anchored by the new terrain Ronald Reagan Parkway in Hendricks County, 146th St. in Hamilton County, and Mt. Comfort Rd. (600W) in Hancock County, that could eventually provide a high capacity surface arterial connection around town.

As with most cities, the main roads around Indianapolis are radial in nature. That is, they lead to and from downtown. Crosstown routes are much less developed, particularly outside of Marion County. As the suburban areas develop and suburb to suburb commuting and travel flows start to take on greater significance, it is critical to develop good cross-town connectivity to avoid gridlock. In many places it is actually these crosstown connections that are the source of the worst congestion as two-lane country roads that aren’t through routes carry significant traffic that they were never designed to handle.

The collar counties and surrounding towns of Indianapolis have been busy upgrading many of these crosstown roads. And they’ve been informally collaborating on a few key routes to make sure that the main arterials they control link up to form a coordinated system. Once piece of this is a sort of surface beltway around much of Indianapolis. To date this has been largely a local initiative. The most intense development in these counties has been along the Marion County border, and the crosstown roads there are under local jurisdiction. The state roads, SR 267, SR 32, SR 9, etc., are further out, in the next ring of development. Those routes were the focus of the CISTMS study that I do still plan to write about. INDOT has been involved in this new route though, by building and upgrading interchanges with the interstate highway system.

Besides not being a freeway type road, there’s another important difference between this beltway and the Indiana Commerce Connector: this one is already being built. This posting will provide an update on the status of the various segments.

  • The current beltway actually starts out as a road called Ameriplex Parkway, which departs from Kentucky Ave (SR 67) in Decatur Township in southwest Marion County to serve the Ameriplex industrial park. It already exists as a four lane, median divided highway.
  • Ameriplex Parkway arcs to the northwest until it intersects with a recently constructed interchange at I-70 near the new airport terminal and changes names to Six Points Rd.
  • Six Points Rd. is already built as a four lane, median divided highway between I-70 and Stafford Rd. in Plainfield in Hendricks County, where it serves a large industrial and distribution area.
  • North of Stafford Rd., another four lane, median divided segment is nearly complete to Washington St. (US 40). It should be open completely this summer. As part of this segment, the roadway name changes to Ronald Reagan Parkway.
  • A new segment of Ronald Reagan Parkway, also to be four lanes, is under construction from Washington St. north to CR 200S., where it will serve yet another industrial park.
  • The two mile segment from CR 200S to Rockville Rd. (US 36) does not yet exist. The design is complete and the ROW is 80% acquired. This segment is estimated to cost $14 million to construct. It will also include a bridge over the CSX Avon Yard. Because of the bridge, I do not believe this is intended to be built as a four lane segment because I don’t think $14 million would cover it, but can’t state definitively.
  • From Rockville Rd. to CR 300N, the roadway exists as a two-lane segment on a four lane ROW. I’m not aware of any plans to expand it at this time.
  • From CR 300N to Crawfordsville Rd. (US 136), Ronald Reagan Parkway does not exist. This segment is currently under design. I do not know the proposed cross-section
  • The segment from Crawfordsville Rd. to 56th St. is slated to be constructed as part of a project to add an interchange at I-74. The interchange is under construction and the segment is scheduled to be open by the fall of 2008. I do not know the planned cross-section.
  • From 56th St., there is no specific route selected. Hendricks and Boone County are currently conducting an environmental assessment to identify a preferred route that would link Ronald Reagan Parkway to the existing I-65 interchange at SR 267. At this interchange the road swings from being a north-south route to being an east-west route.
  • I said that the Hamilton County segment is 146th St. However, the interchange of I-65 and SR 267 in Boone County is at 136th St. (CR 400S). Also, 146th St. passes through the town center of Whitestown, which cannot accomodate a widening. Hence the route is scheduled to follow 400S east to Kissel Rd (800E) and from there north to 146th St. (300S). The bulk of this road exists today as unimproved two-lane county roads.
  • The road then shoot across to the Hamilton County line along 146th. Between Michigan Rd. (US 421) and the county line, Boone County is planning a $3 million federal aid reconstruction project which I believe would leave this as a two-lane segment. Given that this roadway is already lined with housing developments, I think spending a large sum on reconstruction isn’t a good idea as the road should be four lanes east of Michigan Rd.
  • Crossing into Hamilton County, 146th is currently two-lanes for the four mile segment from the county line to Spring Mill Rd. This is currently in design for widening to four lanes. The estimated construction cost is about $30 million, but no funding has yet been identified.
  • The 8.5 mile segment from Spring Mill Rd. east to SR 37 is already a four lane, median divided parkway.
  • From SR 37 to the interchange of I-69 at Greenfield Ave (Exit 10), 146th St. is currently being constructed as a new terrain segment at between four and six lanes, median divided. This is about a $30 million project, which is scheduled to be completed this fall.
  • The interchange at I-69 is currently being upgraded and widened to accomodate a four lane road. It will also be this fall. At this point, the road goes from being east-west 146th St. to being north-south Olio Rd., with a very brief stint as Greenfield Ave. (formerly known as SR 238)
  • Olio Rd. is already five lanes from Greenfield Ave. to 113th St., about three miles.
  • Olio Rd. is currently being expanded to a four lane road to the south of 113th St. as part of a $7 million major bridge project over the Geist Reservoir.
  • The about 1.5 mile segment of Olio from the bridge to the county line has been designed as a four lane road, and the right of way is in place, but construction is awaiting funding. Meanwhile it exists as a two-lane road. The intersection of Olio and 104th St. will be re-aligned and widened next year, and Hamilton County may fund the segment from the bridge to 104th with local funds.
  • South of the Hancock County line (96th St), Olio Rd. changes names to CR 600W, generally called Mt. Comfort Rd. It exists as a two lane road through the town of McCordsville south to I-70 an beyond into Shelby County.
  • McCordsville is currently doing an alignment study on Mt. Comfort Rd. through the center of the town, but no decisions have been made.
  • INDOT is planning a $25 million upgrade of the I-70 interchange at Mt. Comfort Rd.
  • Hancock County plans to reconstruct, but leave as two-lane, Mt. Comfort Rd. south of the I-70 interchange.
  • Crossing the Shelby County line, Mt. Comfort Rd. becomes CR 700W.
  • Shortly thereafter, CR 700 jogs onto a jagged street called Pumpkinvine Rd., which leads to CR 950N.
  • Turning west on CR 950N brings the roadway to an east-west route again, where it shortly arrives at the town of Pleasant View and an interchange with I-74 southeast of Indianapolis.

There has been talk of a complete arc stretching around Indianapolis, but currently the route I traced, which covered the northern 2/3rd’s, is all that exists. A southern route may not mesh well with this.

As I said, this is not a formal or official route. What I described is the result of informal meetings between localities. More formal agreement occured where adjacent jurisdictions cooperated to coordinate their activities, such as in the Hendricks-Boone county example I gave. Or in the Ronald Reagan Corridor Master Plan that Hendricks County governments collaborated to create. I think this shows that local government in Central Indiana are doing a pretty good job of getting along and working together on matters of genuinely regional interest. INDOT has also been a partner in this.

The different segments of the road have very different existing and planned states. But that’s ok because the areas it passes through are in very different stages of development and different strategies are appropriate to each. For example, Boone County is still predominantly rural while Hamilton County has already experienced extensive urbanization in its southern reaches.

This type of circumferential corridor may not be built out for another 50 years. But future generations will thank those in the present who planned well and put into place critical infrastructure such as 146th St. to meet the transportation demands of the future.

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Topics: Transportation
Cities: Indianapolis

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