Connecting Fountain Square to Broad Ripple

Currently, College Avenue is a one way northbound street between Virginia and Massachusetts Avenues.  There have been a few public calls to change this missed connection, and to return College into a two way street (which even has its own facebook fan page, which I have joined).  There are also calls to instill bike lanes and streetcars.  This post is an attempt to look at the practicality of such a mission.

The number one obstacle to progress is, without a doubt, the crumbling railroad overpass at the intersection with Washington Street.  It’s dangerous enough in a car, and on foot, it’s pretty much an accident waiting to happen.  The recent redesign to Washington to make the street even more car-friendly isn’t helping matters either.

Looking at this bridge from the north

Rebuilding this bridge would costly, but it should be a priority for us.  Letting it continue to crumble away and stand as a dangerous barrier on the edge of downtown is a sad statement to our seriousness with regards to infrastructure.  But this is not the only bad bridge on this stretch of College Avenue.  This is just a little bit to the south:

Another dangerous old bridge

The cost of replacing these 2 bridges would have to be addressed before we can discuss making College Avenue a 2-lane Street.  It’s a worthy idea, and I think that we should undertake it, but we need to make sure we know what we are up against first.

Now, on to the practicality of bike lanes and/or streetcars.  The stretch through Lockerbie neighborhood is quite dense, which of course we at Urban Indy appreciate.  Here’s a snapshot of where we may run in to issues by adding multiple uses:

College and New York Street

The distance between the buildings with the green dots is roughly 53 feet.  There are many other places in this area with a similar width between buildings.  As the photo illustrates, when you place 2 lanes of traffic, parallel parking on each side, and sidewalks in 53 feet, and you are pretty much at your limit before you have to look into tearing down structures.  To add a streetcar (or ideally, one line in each direction), we might have to do without parallel parking, which unfortunately might make the street less pedestrian friendly.  A bike lane (or sharrow) is certainly more feasible for this stretch.

I’m open to any bold ideas or suggestions on how to make a better connection from Fountain Square to Broad Ripple.  Direct bus service is an obvious choice, and probably more likely to happen than a streetcar, at least in this stretch.   I’d like to think that we can figure this out.

Comments 20

  • The main problem with this is that we removed the possibility of another nearby north-bound street a LONG time ago by installing highways right in the middle of our city. If we hadn’t done that or if we did something to mediate the car-based traffic patterns that currently exist, I’d be all about this. College heading north from downtown is already problematic enough at evening rush hour.

  • The interstate doesn’t help matters, that’s for sure.

  • Simple answer, Kevin: route a streetcar line around Lockerbie instead of through it. (Note that the Cultural Trail and Monon Trail will already provide one “special” and relatively direct non-car connection from FS to BR through Lockerbie.)
    Instead of College, run streetcar on Prospect & East from Fountain Square to South Street, then on Meridian or Illinois/Capitol north through the heart of downtown. This would serve Lilly, Conseco Fieldhouse, the now-empty Faris Campus, the Main Post Office, LOS and the convention center, Circle Center, the office, hotel, and restaurant cores of downtown, Central Library, Methodist, Ivy Tech, and The Children’s Museum. (Not to mention Aaron Renn’s favorite Arby’s 🙂 ) Cut the line back to College along 34th/Fairfield (which is where the line originally ran back in the day) or on 38th. Voila: Fountain Square to Broad Ripple via downtown.
    A line can’t just be a connection between homes and jobs (or homes and entertainment); it must connect lots of everyday activities to meaningfully create or support transit dependence.
    This proposal would also present a more-central junction point with the proposed east-west (Washington St.) line. Washington & College would be a very problematic location for a junction station.

    • I like that idea for the streetcar. Any ideas on College as a 2 way street?

      • I think College probably should be two-way through downtown, configured in a manner similar to the current two-way section north of Mass Ave (two lanes northbound and one southbound), with curb parking occasionally removed to accommodate major left and right turn locations. For instance, at the pinch point north of New York, two northbound, one southbound left-turn box, and one through southbound lane would wipe out a little curbside parking, probably 4-5 spaces north of the corner and 2-3 south. (4 marked lanes are visible in the photo above.)
        However, I haven’t commuted northbound at afternoon rush hour for many years and don’t know how much traffic it carries outbound from each intersection. At morning rush, it’s not bad, and it doesn’t seem too busy at the intersection with New York when I go through there in the PM.
        Old traffic counts on the MPO website show ~10K cars/day south of Mass Ave, but ~14-15K between Mass and 16th, so the big jump comes where it’s already two lanes north of Mass…which demonstrates that a two-lane north, one-lane south configuration will handle that level of traffic.

  • What’s the benefit of a 2-way College Ave when you have East St running one-way south?

  • Having 2-way traffic on College means that business corridors can develop. These commercial areas will have access to potential customers in the morning and evening commutes. A 2-way college ave could also develop a strong link between Fountain Square and the Near-Eastside, as Kevin points out above. Finally, two way traffic has a calming effect that increases street usage by pedestrians and cyclists.

    One item to consider is that if the Nickel Plate line is successfully run to downtown there will be an opportunity to replace this bridge and reconfigure the street pattern.

  • Those viaducts are in horrible shape, it not uncommon to see chunks of aged concrete that have fallen in the street; not to mention the corroded steel beams. College should have been made a two way street a long time ago; they are enough one way streets to carry north and south traffic out of downtown anyway…

    Here are some photos I taken of the viaduct to kind of give you an idea:

  • The streetcar could also take a detour off of college, down mass. ave, south on alabama, a stop at the city market, and then head back out virginia ave. to fountain square. This would make the line much more practical for those working in the downtown core. It would also help bring the city market back to life.

  • Many streetcars jog. No big deal. 2-way streets act as more than just highways. One-ways are in effect highways – 2 to 4 lanes in each direction, separated by city fabric rather than medians with ditches.

  • Josh, I’ve often argued that the “one way” network in Center Township actually prevented us from having a freeway system like Minneapolis, Columbus, or Cincinnati that just plain bulldozed big swaths in the center of town.
    Look at maps of those cities and count the number of freeway segments that radiate out from Downtown or go across town close to the core. Then compare to Indy: only four freeways and two boulevards (Madison and Fall Creek/Binford) that radiate out, and NO crosstowns. Instead, we have the one way pairs (including East/College) through parts of Center Township. Plus West Street.
    Imagine Indianapolis going crazy on a network like those other cities, which might have included:
    > an interstate-grade I-74/Southeastern Avenue extension all the way in to Washington & I-65/70,
    > another I-74 extension out 11th, Indiana, and 16th St. to Crawfordsville,
    > a West Side Expressway from 38th & Cold Spring down to I-70 & Holt Rd.,
    > a West St. extension down Bluff Road to Highway 37,
    > the I-69 extension down Binford, Fall Creek, and the Monon to the North Split,
    > a crosstown expressway to replace 38th St. between White River and the State Fairgrounds.
    I’m glad we’re worried about one-way streets and 53-foot building clearances downtown instead. Certainly one could argue that our “low-speed expressways” are not conducive to urban-ness, but they are a heck of a lot better than having a freeway in their place. (And last I checked, The Loop and Manhattan are full of one-ways, too.)

  • I feel like a streetcar connecting Mass Ave/College to Fountain Square via Market Street would be a great idea to connect these places. Not only that, there are plenty of pieces of land in between which would be prime for redevelopment in between the two areas.

    This isnt even talking about connecting Broad Ripple. I mean in the downtown area, this would be a win situation.

    As for turning College Ave to a two way, I agree that it would be good. Not only is traffic fast between Washington and Mass Ave, it acts like most highways do where people simply pass through instead of stopping. Not that there arent places that are thriving like Easley and others, but it would be a boon to businesses in this area to have traffic going the other direction to help combat the fast traffic.

    As far as reconstructing the rail overpass at Washington Street, that would be a welcome project. I wonder how easily this might be undertaken due to the large volume of freight that moves through there though…. Im sure smart planners could conceive of a way around this as well.

  • I live on the near north side of downtown around College and need to drive to Fountain Square quite a bit. I’m sure many of you understand the rediculous ‘detour’ route you have to take just to get to Fountain Square from this area—due to the 10 + blocks of one way College? It shouldn’t be this difficult. For such a simple solution…but it seems so complex for people wanting to do anything for a sense of community here. It will help the necessary development of the College Avenue corridor, which is currently shut off due to one way access.

    Is it really that hard to understand? It’s College Avenue.

  • As a brief introduction. I spent a year busing and biking from Mass Ave and College to Broadripple.

    The one way problem is minor. A quick jaunt down Mass Ave. will get you to East and then Virginia which takes you to Fountain Square. A difference of 2/10 of a mile.
    The streetcar is a nice 25 year plan for Indianapolis, but what about right now?
    With 5 lanes from Broadripple to 10th St. I propose dedicated bike and bus lanes to better facilitate the “leap-frogging” already happening on College. Things change around 10th and 11th streets when the lanes are cut down to 4. This lasts for approx. 3 blocks (i think we can handle that.) At which point College becomes 1-way and South-bound travelers are forced to take Mass Ave to East.
    Mass Ave. Can be a shared road and the dedicated bike and bus lanes can pick back up on East and continue on to Virginia to Fountain Square.
    As for North-bound traffic from Fountain Square, College Ave. is 3-4 lanes, still room for a dedicated bus and bike lane North. There is a bit of a bottleneck at Mass Ave again, but within 3-4 blocks the 5 lane road is back to quickly whisk you up to Broadripple.

    Their is a learning curve with a dedicated bus and bike lane and initially there will be more motorist congestion along college, but eventually this would increase the capacity for travel between Downtown/Mass Ave. , Fountain Square, and Broadripple. and it would encourage more people to ride their bike and take public transit which typically increases the value of neighborhoods and increases patronage of businesses along College.

  • Make it a two-way. It makes no sense that it’s a one-way from Washington to Virginia, while East Street is a two-way south of Washington. As far as a light rail or streetcar goes, that would be great. It could even be closed to car traffic or one lane in one direction just for circulation similar to the downtown streets that light rail runs on in Downtown Portland (of course maybe that sounds like a contradiction to recommend two-way or light rail w/ one-way traffic).

    It is a major impediment to traveling from the Near Eastside to Fountain Square / Fletcher Place etc. It’s more than just the two to three blocks east that one must go to be able to travel south on East Street, when you consider that there isn’t single street to travel south from Michigan Street to Fletcher Avenue, between State Ave and East Street (about one mile in the heart of the city). Worse yet, there are no through streets to travel south from 10th Street to Fletcher between Rural and East (almost two miles in the heart of the city). And what is the explanation? It’s not topography. It’s not lakes or rivers or a huge park. No, those might be good reasons. I don’t know. It just seems to be a negligence in planning in many decades past.

    I saw an old City Thoroughfare Plan that proposed connecting Shelby Street to Massachusetts Avenue (at 10th Street) by way of extending Shelby Street north across Washington Street up to New York Street just west of Highland Park and then splitting into two one-ways (Dorman and Highland) to meet up with the one-ways of Massachusetts and Brookside. I think this was eliminated from future T’fare Plans for good reason due to Cottage Home residents objecting to considerable traffic increases, but I can’t help but think that there must be a better reasonable way to provide a two-way link between Shelby and Wash to the vicinity of 10th & Oriental. Slightly off-topic, but it would address the Fount Sq / SE connection to the Near Eastside problem that’s been raised by others.

    I’d be happy to see Oriental converted to a two-way street from Michigan to Washington. There’s a 50-foot right-of-way, which provides more than adequate space to expand the street width by about two feet which is all that would really be needed for a slow speed (25MPH) two-way street with parking on one side. It’s already wider than a lot of local streets that allow the same traffic pattern, but would obviously carry a greater amount of traffic. Unfortunately, the City would probably be hesitant to do it for fear that homeowners would protest at the presumed “taking” of the unimproved right-of-way that they have come to rely upon as a buffer between their property and the sidewalk.

    So, back to College. Yeah, it would really improve access and quality of life for residents and businesses both on the east end of downtown and the west end of the Near Eastside.

    I’m sure many have noticed the old remnant right turn lane from southbound College to westbound Washington. Does anyone know when College was converted to a one-way?

    I’ve heard that CSX has no interest in replacing the railroad overpasses because as ugly as they are, and as much concrete falls off them, they indicate that they structurally sound for the trains. I think the avenue to pursue is to work with CSX to provide the necessary upgrades to the “Belt Line” RR tracks in order to re-route all freight train traffic around downtown. This would eliminate conflicts with passenger trains, should the proposed Northeast Corridor be developed, and allow for demolition, replacement or creative restoration of the overpasses.

  • Hey Kevin, along with realigning College to a two-way, what would you think about connecting Concordia and Davidson St in the area just north of Fletcher Place? There is an unused railroad ROW that the roads were severed by. This might make the area ammendable back to a neighborhood. The recent infill south or here has been quite good but I can’t see it moving north until changes happen.

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