Rebuild Indy: What are we rebuilding?

In 2010, Mayor Greg Ballard used bonding capacity against equity in our water/sewer utilities as well as future rate increases to fund a program that is called, Rebuild Indy. The first injection of funds came in to the tune of $55 million. It was used to jumpstart the program and largely includes resurfacing streets, repairing some sidewalks, and constructing a trail on the NW side of Indianapolis by adding a trail from Cold Springs Road to Kessler Boulevard along Michigan Road. A couple of weeks ago, $32 million more in projects were announced. Some bridge reconstruction work is planned for Meridian Street across Fall Creek as well as the Morris Street bridge over the White River on the city’s south side.

Looking East on New York (click to enlarge)
Looking East on New York (click to enlarge)

Much more work is said to be planned when and if the “sale” of the sewer/water utilities to Citizens energy is approved through the IURC who is currently deliberating on the matter. The announced sum that the city would have to spend on infrastructure (including what has been spent already) would be $425 million.
I have inquired repeatedly to the Mayor’s office about what the rest of the projects would entail and even received some off the record information regarding some specific projects. However, there doesn’t seem to be a clear intent to release all the planned on projects that Rebuild Indy plans on tackling. I’m sure there is political headache at risk for such a move.

Rebuild Indy Map (image course: Rebuild Indy)
Rebuild Indy Map (image course: Rebuild Indy)

However, and  what should concern most of us living within Indianapolis urban neighborhoods, is what are planners REALLY going to do with this money to preserve and improve the quality of life for residents? The Mayor’s recent State of the City address pointed out the need to focus on our inner city neighborhoods. The census recently opened our eyes that suburban flight continues unabated in the Indianapolis area except where we have created pedestrian friendly environments. Urban Indy author Greg Meckstroth recently tackled this issue. Although there have been a few projects of noteworthy pedestrian mention such as the Michigan Road trail, the first round of Rebuild Indy projects have largely focused on simply repaving our existing roads, and restriping them in the same fashion despite repeated attempts by not only myself, but those of IndyCOG to improve our bike lane designations downtown. Furthermore, a project in my own neighborhood this summer had a Rebuild Indy sign posted and when the sidewalks were repaired, it could be debated whether or not they were repaired at all. The project aims to add bike lanes however, once the weather warms which will be a welcome addition.

"Repaired" sidewalk along 52nd Street (image credit: me)
"Repaired" sidewalk along 52nd Street (image credit: me)

Personally, it concerns me that the status quo of road design is not being examined in the least and we are borrowing money from tomorrow, to simply repair areas that in 5-10 years from now, will suffer similar breakdowns. With Complete Streets type of projects taking place in our city (Meridian/Westfield & 10th Street SB Legacy) and world class projects such as the Cultural Trail in progress, the bar has been raised. As residents, how can we not demand more for our invested dollar?
Perhaps I will be proven wrong and there is a vast plan of adding NEW sidewalks through neighborhoods that don’t currently have any. Perhaps there is another Georgia Street project lurking in the weeds that hasn’t been announced yet. Perhaps our side streets where cars speed through can be calmed so that the city has a fighting chance of attracting families with children to live in the neighborhoods that they lie within. If so, I will drop my criticism and get on board. As it stands though, I fear we are on board to spend a lot of money on projects that have an opportunity to tremendously improve the quality of life for Indianapolis’ residents, but which fail to do so.

Comments 8

  • Curt, your complaint about the sidewalk is not an uncommon one. The word on the street is the Mayor’s team is using very cheap cement so they can pull off so many projects with the little amount of money that’s currently available. I bet they weren’t planning on a huge ice storm and a few bits of snow to hit soon after some of these repairs were done, because they certainly didn’t seem to hold up. Despite most of the area on 38th St near Lafayette Square being repaved, it look like crap today.

  • The sale of utilities, like the sale of the toll road, are simply funding stop-gap measures. Sure, there will be some bike lanes here and sidewalks there, but the priority, as it usually is with ENGINEERS, not planners, is moving vehicles more efficiently rather than any “unmeasurable” quality of life improvement.

    There really needs to be a fundamental change to the mentality of the average Indiana PE.

  • MAYOR BALLARD’S QUALITY OF LIFE BANDAGE PLAN: Let’s get ready for the SUPERBOWL and next ELECTION. Please, I’m not buying into most of these projects, especially the ones treated like little scars that just keep coming back when picking at the wrong root.

  • Excellent example of sidewalk ‘repairs.’ There are many others that are far worse, such as East Street around Ohio — a narrow sidewalk that is filled with poles and posts that make it too narrow to pass a sheelchair through. This same sort of thing can be found numerous places within a couple blocks of Wash/Meridian, as well as the neighborhoods across the city.

    There was a massive sidewalk rebuilding project in the mid- to late-80’s that ended in a scandal regarding the cheap and shoddy work by a contractor with friends on the 25th floor. History repeats for those who do not learn from previous mistakes.

  • Is the city open to ADA lawsuits for repaving in ways that make sidewalks in accessible to individuals in wheelchairs?

    I think the questions raised here apply to much of the Ballard administration: paving over today’s challenges and offering little to no fresh thinking for the future of our community. Instead of Alaska’s Bridge to Nowhere we have Indy’s Sidewalks to Somewhere … it’s just that our elected leaders have no destination in mind.

  • I’ll refrain from talking about sidewalks as it is pointless to have any hope that they will be built correctly.

    There is no plan to do anything except transfer wealth to as many favored contractors, engineers and lawyers as possible and bribe / convince people that he (Ballard) is creating heaven on earth and deserves to be re-elected. I confronted his current chief of staff about this very issue – streets falling apart shortly after being repaved (unrelated to this year’s ice storm – but it created even more dramatic damage).

    One of the many short-sighted things they do is pave over concrete roads with asphalt to pretty them up temporarily and create worse problems long-term. Not only should they just repair the concrete roads, which are generally in fair to good shape (seam issues only), they should pave more of the major arterial roads in concrete. But just as indicated above, with respect to the sidewalks, they will use cheap concrete (think developer built subdivision sidewalks) instead of proper 30-40 year concrete.

    It is all political nonsense; they do what will preserve their jobs, status and power. Anything that happens beyond that is purely accidental.

  • Unfortunately, the other comments are so true! Need to imagine as if you are in a wheelchair and how would you feel! Look at the photo of the pole in the middle of a sidewalk! Common sense and what do you think your fellow handicapped veterans would think! Listen to the people and” in order to get respect you have to give respect. “- from a banner several years ago in a high school.

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