TRAFFIC: Weekend Jambalaya: Here Comes The Big One
At some point in the intermediate future, one of Indiana’s most traveled interchanges will be stripped down and reborn. The announcement was made earlier this week that the north split is going to get a Robocop type makeover, complete with rebuilt bridges, extra lanes, all that stuff. In this edition Weekend Jambalaya, we'll talk north split, then hit everything else that’s meaty in weekend travel. After all, this is JAMBALAYA, and we include everything that's travel delicious. But no onions - they cause Mad Cow Disease.
NORTH SPLIT REBUILD
Oooooh, now we’re talkin’! As someone who loves to talk traffic patterns on a first date, the possibility of the north split being completely rebuilt is hotter than Marilyn Chambers on Betamax. In case you’re unfamiliar, the north split is the spaghetti bowl type of interchange on the northeast corner of downtown. It’s where I-65 and I-70 “split.”
(It’s really safe from the hours of 9pm - 3am)
As far as the project goes, here’s what I know:
I KNOW NOTHING
I know nothing. The planning is so far in the infant stages that the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) - the overseer of this project, so to speak - hasn’t even started the bid process, in earnest. To give you an idea, construction is set to begin sometime in late 2019 - 2021. Broad enough for ya? If we can’t pinpoint a start time, how can we even begin to guesstimate when the project will be totally finished?
I KNOW SOMETHING
I’ve been in contact with Nathan Riggs - Information Direction of INDOT East Central District (for Indianapolis and such) - who said “the magnitude of this project will be second only to the original construction.” We’re not talking about a “HyperFix” type of project - the thirty day repaving job in the north split back in 2004 (full disclosure - I lived in northern Indiana in 2004 and wasn’t in town to experience HyperFix). We’re talking about future road work that involves a total overhaul, as in 33 rebuilt bridges, lanes moved, new lanes, repaving, and restriping. As far as the design, Riggs says all options are on the table, and when complete, there will be an “entirely new interchange.”
Eventually, private contractors will pitch INDOT their most traveler friendly and cost efficient ways to rebuild the north split. You and I will get our say at several public forums, and then the bid is picked. There’s a lot of ambiguity here, except for..
THIS IS ALREADY PAID FOR
Do you remember that dime a-gallon gas tax that our General Assembly passed earlier this year? That’s your north split road funding, or the tax that will pay for Next Level Roads - the long term plan to rebuild Indiana’s highway and interstate infrastructure. Here’s the thing: the money is there, it’s going to be spent, and if it’s going to be spent, I’d prefer it to stay in central Indiana. Gary needs another lane for a faster commute to Chicago? Great let’s do it, but let’s get ours first. I’m selfish. If you're angry about the tax, vote out your state rep/senator. Given the last couple of years, you'll probably hit rather than miss. Just sayin'.
Speaking of, there’s barely a general idea of how much this thing is going to cost. It could cost anything, from millions and millions to a fifty and a pack of Camel Filters. The north split rebuild could be paid with bitcoin and feature a drop zone for skydivers and a special safe lane for university sophomores.
WHAT DO I THINK?
So glad you asked. At this moment - and the moment can change - I’m fully behind a complete overhaul of the north split. My reasons are triaged into safety, travel, and jobs. Here it is:
The lane design is dangerously outdated. The flaws are especially noticeable when you hop on southbound I-65 from 10th St. and Delaware St. If you’re trying to make the ramp to eastbound I-70, you have about a quarter of a mile to shoot over to the other side of the interstate. It’s hard enough during midday, let alone rush hour; I can’t image consistently doing it safely when traffic is at its highest density. Some have told me it’s the worst part of their day - as in just trying to get home.
It’s not like the engineers who put this thing together fifty years ago were dunces - they just couldn’t vision an interchange that funnels 170,000 cars and trucks every business day. And since Indiana has become so talented at landing jobs, that number is only going to swell.
If the north split is safer - with new lanes and a more modern design - then commute crippling crashes will be minimized. You’ll get to work on-time and get home faster. In its present state, a crash right before where the ramps split can stop traffic in a heartbeat. Even if you’re able to squeeze by on the right, in the middle, or on the left, the delays could potentially go on for miles.
If I’m Joe Hogsett - Mayor of Indianapolis - I’m grabbing the most primitive redesign of the north split and flying to Seattle. I’d scale the side of Amazon headquarters until I find the office of C.E.O. Jeff Bezos, and then Batman through the class and smack the plans of the redesign on his desk. It'd be growl “welcome to Indiana, JEFF.” Then I’d get high. I wouldn’t get high, unless I was dressed up as Catwoman.
This is another way to lure companies to central Indiana. It’s infrastructure. It falls into the same category as Indianapolis International Airport - voted America’s best airport five years in a row. A redesigned north split would be an amenity in drawing any kind of job we want, and rebuilding the split is a proactive step in the continued development of Indiana’s already incredibly sound business infrastructure.
AND NOW.. TRAFFIC
Uh yeah. About that. Sure you want to go there? Talk Colts instead? .
Alright. Here's your traffic:
It’s going to be bad.
I have no earthly idea on how bad - let's get a plan in place first. Parts of the north split could shutdown, or there might be a period when the whole thing is closed (balcony jump!).
Still - and I could be naive - but this is exciting. I mean it's another major project hitting downtown Indianapolis. Inconvenience, every bit of it. But it helps our town get bigger and better.
HERE’S THE FUN PART
Cubs fans, do you take the Dan Ryan Expressway to Chicago? You’ve probably noticed how the interstate signs say something like “Dan Ryan Express” or “Dan Ryan Local.” What if we applied the softer verbiage to - I don’t know - Indianapolis, and maybe trash such traffic lingo like “southbound I-65/70 collector ramp?”
Remember where the collector is at and what it does? It distributes local traffic to the interstate and vice versa - just like the Dan Ryan. That’s why if you get on the “local” side too early, you see a whole lot of exits, and a whole lot of cars going 15-20 miles-per-hour faster than you on the “express side.”
What if we get the chance to rename this very useful patch of road - either as part of this project, or possibly even sooner? Ideas? Tribute to Peyton Manning? Hoosier Highway? Who knows...
NORTH SPLIT RAMP CLOSURE, REDUX
Last Spring, a semi hit the wall and now we’re suffering the consequences. To beat a dead horse, this interchange chews up everyone and everything - especially truckers on a deadline. So! For the second consecutive weekend:
The ramp from westbound I-70 to southbound I-65 is closed on Friday night from around 9:00pm until Monday morning at 6:00am. Let's calm ourselves - we DO NOT HAVE TO REROUTE. You’ll be pushed over to the collector, or in my terms - Local 65/70 - and be able to make your way down and around downtown. By the way, the left lane of the collector is also closed, because God has a funny sense of humor. Just stay right.
***Hi Cleveland! Welcome to Indianapolis and THANK YOU for helping us make Lucas Oil Stadium look somewhat full for the CBS d-team. Watch out for crazy traffic when merging from westbound I-70 to southbound I-65. By the way, good Luck (haha). Our franchise is just as dilapidated as yours. Brothers?
BEST OF THE REST
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd
CIRCLE CITY CLASSIC
This is one damn fine parade, and a parade that woke me up when I lived on Vermont - way early in my Indianapolis life. I was just lying in bed, listening to one drum line after another. Who wouldn’t get dressed and walk a block or two? I did, and what a parade.
There will be street closures. Here's a fancy map.
Indy 11 VS Puerto Rico FC - Michael A. Carroll Stadium - Postponed to October 4th
They’re going to wait on this one. Let's do what's really important first.
SUNDAY, September 24th
The Indianapolis Colts host the Cleveland Browns. 1:00pm kick unless the merciful decide to start it sooner.
***Traffic downtown is going to be gameday traffic. Watch out for a cheesy breakfast scramble and $5.00 tickets for decent seats, not the ones behind the pillar. Make a run for the lower during the second quarter. Tell the security guard you're pregnant. Rub your tum tum. If you’re lucky you’ll see a dust up between Colts and Browns fans who can’t decide who reigns supreme in the AFC cellar. I really detest this franchise right now.
Klipsch Music Center - Matchbox 20
Aw hell yes. Anyone who says Matchbox 20 sucks has either blacked out their youth or has ice picks hanging out of their ears. Raise your hand if you know I’m right. Hey, you in the back - you suck!
**Showtime 6:45pm. Traffic demo is expected to be in the range of 35 - 45 year olds, meaning slow, budding middle-aged folk fumbling with their smart phone GPS while trying to navigate the double-diamond at Campus Pkwy. Take me with you!!
I absolutely love my job. That is all.
Matthew Bair's first marriage ended when his wife left him for a man with a bigger south split. He's the new voice of Indianapolis traffic, and can be followed on Twitter @WIBCTraffic. Tips? As in ribs? Call direct at (317) 684-8134 or the WIBC Newsroom at (317) 637-6397.