Saturday, May 17th, 2008

Indiana Transportation Briefs

Apologies for not reporting this sooner, but Carmel has awarded contracts for the construction of the first two roundabout interchanges on Keystone Ave. at 106th St. and 126th St. Milestone Construction won the two contracts, valued at a total of $29 million.

My math says this is $14.5 million per interchange. If that is the average cost per interchange, then the construction cost of the six interchanges will be $87 million. The state is paying Carmel $90 million to take over Keystone. This estimate would leave only $3 million for all engineering, land acquisition, etc. for the project, which seems extremely thin. Plus there will be construction cost inflation over the next two years. Unless the cost per interchange goes down in the future, I’d say it looks challenging for Carmel to deliver this all in for the $90 million INDOT is paying them.

RW Armstrong released the final interchange design options for US 31. They also have presentation materials regarding them posted. Unfortunately, the online materials have zero context, so it is impossible to determine anything about what was said in the meeting unless you were there or until the minutes are posted.

Here are the options:

I-465 and 106th St. There are two basic options. The first includes weaving traffic on US 31 between 106th and I-465 and the second eliminates this through braided ramps and a mini-C/D system, presumably at higher cost. 106th St. is a tight diamond in both alternatives and no roundabout interchange option was presented.

Option with weaving traffic:

Option with braided ramps:

The Keystone Ave/146th/151st area includes four options, all of which involve some type of a split tight diamond interchange. One of them shows a roundabout interchange at Range Line Rd., but the presentation materials suggest this option was rejected.

Interestingly, the aerials on this really show what I’ve said all along, lifestyle centers are just strip malls by another name. Look at Clay Terrace and you’ll see that the only thing really making this different from a traditional shopping center is that the parking lots are in back and the buildings face a narrow interior street.

The renderings are difficult to see properly, even under zoom, so I’m not going to offer any real analysis here.

Basic split diamond option

Split diamond with slip ramps

Range Line Rd. interchange option

Greyhound Pass interchange option

The SR 32 interchange only has two options, a diamond option and a SPUI option. There is no roundabout interchange option here either.

Diamond option

SPUI option

The Hamilton County Commissioners and the Boone County Commissioners held a joint meeting on April 25th to discuss highway projects, principally 146th St. Hamilton County reviewed their 146th St. plan, which involved widening the road to four lanes from Spring Mill Rd. west to the county line, with access only via roundabouts at one mile intervals. Property owners along 146th would get access via frontage roads. Boone County is only planning to have two lanes on the short segment from the county line to Michigan Rd. But they are buying right of way for four lanes and hope to widen that segment to four lanes when Hamilton County’s project comes online. They are also planning for a extending the road west from Michigan Rd. to the I-65 interchange at SR 267. That would cost $38 million and there is no money. The two counties decided to jointly pursue earmarks for the project, believing the federal government would be very interested because of the potential for linking I-65 to I-69 with a major corridor. In my view, four lanes is clearly warranted east of Michigan Rd, but west of Michigan Rd. there isn’t a pressing need yet.

The two counties also agreed that they would like to see SR 32 widened to four lanes between Lebanon and Westfield. They’d at least like to see a plan put in place and right of way reserved before gridlock sets in. They also lamented the low priority put on this route by the state. I’m not sure a four lane SR 32 is needed anytime soon, except for the segments east of Ditch Rd. However, INDOT has a major moves project on the books to redo this as a two lane road with shoulders at a cost of almost $36 million that would be a complete waste of money. Better to use that cash to widen SR 32 west to Ditch Rd. now, then do the design and ROW on the remaining segments to four lanes.

An article about Bike to Work Day notes that Indianapolis has the second lowest percentage of residents commuting by bicycle of any large metro area. Only Kansas City was worse. By contrast, top city Portland had a percentage of bicycle commuters 35 times as high as Indianapolis. There was extensive coverage of the dearth of bike lanes in Indy. Meanwhile, just north of the border in Carmel, things are much different. The city has built miles of on street and off street bike paths, and recently designated 100 miles of bike routes and loops. Other suburban towns such as Fishers and Plainfield are also building extensive trail networks.

Topics: Transportation
Cities: Indianapolis

4 Responses to “Indiana Transportation Briefs”

  1. jimgrey says:

    I work at about 126th and Meridian. Several of my co-workers rode their bikes to work on Friday — chiefly those who lived east of Meridian St.; they could use the Monon part of the way. I live at about 56th/Kessler/Cooper on the Northwestside. There’s no safe route to anywhere from here. But let’s say I could safely get to Hamilton County. The bike lanes/paths haven’t appeared very much west of Meridian. My choices would be Ditch or Spring Mill northbound, and either one of those on a bike at rush hour is taking your life into your hands.

  2. The Urbanophile says:

    Jim, the southwest Clay area hasn’t been officially annexed into the city of Carmel yet. That happens in 2010. After annexation, I’d expect the Carmel to upgrades the roads there they same way as they’re doing in northwest Clay.

  3. mordant says:

    I won’t pretend to be surprised that INDOT didn’t put forth any roundabouts as options along US 31. It would only be surprising if they had. While there are obvious differences between the two routes, having a roundabout approach and the standard INDOT approach essentially side by side should be an interesting experiment of sorts.

    One general question that occurs to me as a mere driver who knows little of road design: why are there so many different types of interchanges? As a mere driver, it is often impossible for me to anticipate which lane I need to be in when attempting to either leave or (especially) access an expressway. Signs often give hints but they are often either right before the fact or (occasionally) misleading or wrong. It would be nice to be able to anticipate that certain actions are going to be required when attempting a particular maneuver.

    Tell me I’m wrong, but the cynical side of me suspects that the proliferation of interchange designs is a function of designer boredom more than any particular need related to the site or (God forbid) the driver.

  4. Deuteronomy says:

    Incidentally, a city which surprisingly has fewer bike lanes than Indy is my current (temporary) home: Boston. Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and other various suburbs of Boston are replete with lanes, while Boston continues to have none. It’s become a major embarrassment for city boosters, and Mayor Menino hopes to change this shortly, but the Rose Kennedy Greenway–the crowning achievement in the wake of the Big Dig–has no lanes either. Yet Boston still has quite a few bicyclists. Obviously demographics will influence this just as much as infrastructure, if not more so: huge student populations encourage bicycle use more than anything. No doubt Carmel’s magnificent network gets scant usage in comparison to that of Bloomington or West Lafayette.

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