Friday, October 4th, 2013
The main freeway through downtown Indianapolis, the I-65/I-70 “inner loop,” is currently closed for 90 days for a construction project. This is the second time in a decade they’ve done that, which made me ask the question, if you can repeatedly close a freeway for months at a time, do you really need it at all?
I recently did some field surveys (aka driving around) and wanted to follow-up with a report on actual conditions during the shutdown. As expected, there seem to be few if any problems downtown. I haven’t heard any reports of commuting problems and in fact just the opposite.
For through traffic, it’s a different story. The southern arch of I-465 has seen congestion, particularly between I-70 and I-65, where both freeway are detoured over the same segment. Clearly this road would need to be widened in order to enable permanently closing the downtown freeways. The good news: that is needed anyway. Long term plans have already proposed widening. When the I-465 southeast segment was reconstructed in fact, overhead bridges were replaced with extra clearance for more lanes. Also, unlike the west side, the segment between I-70 and I-65 has ample space to build a road as wide as you want. I’d say make it twelve lanes keeping in mind future traffic from I-69 which will already be routed over this segment.
Additionally, there are backups at the I-465/I-65 South interchange. No surprise there. That interchange is very inadequately designed (it includes 25mph ramps, left entrances, etc) and already had problems even prior to the closure. INDOT is actually doing some upgrades there already, but long term it ideally needs to be a four level stack.
In short, I think the teardown idea remains viable, though requires some improvement work elsewhere to make it happen. Given the intrusiveness of such a thing, it’s something I’d be looking at for the longer term time horizon say 25 years as the need to do something about I-465 happens anyway, and the next round of major repairs on the inner loop comes due.