LastÂ week, INDOTÂ commenced work on I-69 at the interchange with state road 37 and 116th street, on Indianapolis’ NE side. According to INDOT’s page on the project, work is being conducted,
“To alleviate the existing bottleneck at the I-69 interchange at 116th Street/State Road 37 (SR 37), the current design will be reconfigured.”
Â The work will obstructÂ traffic flow for the 2012 & 2013Â construction season. At first read, this project is much cheaper and less invasive than the previously proposed $500 million reconfiguration of the entire stretch of 69 from 465 north to Exit 5. However, this appears to be more business as usual for INDOT. Indeed, the passage above illustrates that this work will alleviate the existing bottleneck.
The bigger question though should be, what will INDOT do when the new interchange design becomes obsolete and congested? History has shown us that freeway expansion induces more travel along newly added capacity. Indeed, that is why this project is taking place.Â Managing highway congestion with lane widening and addition never truly solves the demand side of the equation. In addition to this work, the Town of Fishers, who will beÂ the direct beneficiary of the newly added capacity, has a program appropriately named, Drive Fishers, that aims to add capacity and streamline traffic flow; a number of the program’s focused improvements occur on 37, just north of where th I-69 project is being undertaken.
As a whole, these projects will add traffic capacity and speed vehicles to their suburban destinations much quicker than they do today. That can be seen as a plus when viewed through the lens of an automobile driver. However, as a pedestrian, cyclist or alternative transportation advocates, it should be viewed as a detriment to healthy lifestyles. History also shows that new road expansion will lead to new development and with this corridor being nearly all automobile focused, expect more automobile dealerships, fast food restaurants and other associated automobile based commercial outlets. The lone pedestrian project being undertaken, is the 126th street multi-use trail projectÂ which accompanies the divided highway expansion from 2 to 4 lanes of 126th street.
Sadly, the NE Corridor project which parallels this stretch of road, is still stuck in neutral thanks to inaction at the state level over the requested authority to establish a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and levy taxes for the regional transit system advocated by Indy Connect. It would have been a welcome gesture by the Town of Fishers and INDOT if the money being spent on traffic flow and capacity improvements had instead been spent on bringingÂ regional transit to fruition and reducing further dependence on automobile commutingÂ for residents on the NE side of Indy.