Is This The New North Split?
What to do with the fastly deteriorating north split - Indiana's second-most heavily traveled interchange - has been a source of contention since the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announced intentions to either give it a makeover or a full-on face lift. Usually cost concerns are paramount with such a project - and they are now - but residents of the revitalized near east side, Mass Ave, and Lockerbie neighborhoods have made salient arguments against the environmental consequences of such a project. The Rethink 65/70 coalition has been successful with its grassroots campaign to constantly have the ear of Indiana's transportation body.
(Photo Credit: @WIBCTraffic)
Have a dinner on Mass Ave. and these things will haunt your dreams.
Still, something has to be done for several reasons. The North Split accommodates well over 200,000 vehicles per day - a volume that couldn't be predicted when the last section opened in 1976. Several parts of the interchange are meat grinders, with drivers having to jump multiple lanes - or "weave" - to make their intended exit. Also, the thing is falling apart. Bridges are on life support. According a system-level analysis by INDOT, 27 or 31 north split bridges have less than ten years or service remaining before major reconstruction is needed. Eleven of the bridges have less than five years left. In other words, it's time to get busy, and the analysis says INDOT needs to knock this out in the two to four years.
Several ideas have been thrown around, from a complete rebirth of the north split, to tunnelling, to a rehab project. Again, plans have been vetted heavily by the Rehink coalition, who are rightfully concerned about such a massive project threatening the survival of their neighborhoods. Finally, INDOT rolled out the prefered plan - or prefered alternative - of the north split rebuild. If the state moves on the plan, the bridges and pavement would be rehabilitated. Most importantly, weaves in two of the most dangerous spots in the North Split would be eliminated.
Details? We've got 'em.
SO WHAT'S THE PLAN MAN
INDOT decided on "Alternative 4c" as the prefered option to makeover the north split. The plan doesn't call for a complete rebuild, but rather a rehabilitation of the bridges. If selected, INDOT would also eliminate two exit ramps in the north split to eliminate weaving. Here are the highlights:
- In an effort to eliminate lane jumping - or weaving - southbound I-65 drivers would no longer have access to the collector - or the local ramp to Michigan St/Ohio St/Fletcher Ave. Southbound I-65 drivers will still have access to eastbound I-70.
- Westbound I-70 will still have access to the collector.
- Westbound I-70 drivers would lose access to the Meridian St/Penn exit. Northbound I-65 drivers will still have access to the exit ramp.
***The weaving movements would be eliminated by allowing entry or exit only at the adjacent interstate lane.
- Ramps would be configured in the interchange area to maintain four lanes each way on the west leg section.
- Barrier walls would be strategically placed to prohibit weaving movements from parallel interstate lanes.
- The additional width would require retaining walls approximately 7 feet to 11 feet maximum height at some locations to retain construction within the existing right-of-way.
INDOT says this plan would improve safety at the most hazardous locations in the project area and two major bottlenecks would be removed on the west leg.
You can see the ramp from westbound I-70 to Meridian St/Penn has been eliminated. Again, the ramp from northbound I-65 to Meridian St/Penn will remain open.
Also, the ramp from Meridian St/Delaware to I-65 would be closed.
Both of these movements intend to eliminate weaving or lane jumping, therefore making a safer west leg of the north split.
Here, westbound I-70 still has access to the collector, but I-65 doesn't. Also, I-65 and I-70 would flip-flop at the Pine St. entrance, doing away with another weave.
Barriers and the possible addition of retaining walls would be installed on I-65/I-70 to increase safety.
Construction of the project could cost up to $275-million dollars, and work could start in 2020. Objective? Make the north split safer and well-functioning.
We'll keep an eye on this one. There's a lot at stake here.
Matt Bair is the new voice of Indianapolis traffic, and can be followed on Twitter @WIBCTraffic..Tips? Call direct at (317) 684-8134 or the 93 WIBC Newsroom at (317) 637-6397.