A recently completed study by a number of agencies, lead by the Town of Fishers and Town of Noblesville, outlines the possibility of a large scale project that would convert IN37, from I-69 all the way to IN38, from the existing 4 lane divided and rural style highway, to a design that would emulate what Carmel has achieved with Keystone Parkway using an innovative roundabout design.
Currently, the study area defined for IN-37 exists as a 2 lane divided highway with multiple stop lights spanning over 5.5 miles from I69 to In32/38. A number of construction projects are currently underway to smooth the transition to and from I-69 including a pair of new overpasses, additional travel lanes on the freeway and rebuilt exit lanes. The investments taking place on the freeway will allow for traffic to move smoothly in this area.
It seems logical then, that the towns which 37 passes through would want to improve conditions for motorists. What good are the modifications at 69 if drivers will squander all the saved time sitting at multiple red lights on 37?
Enter the proposed design reconfiguration. Taking a cue from Carmel, who recently wrapped up a similar project along Keystone Parkway, concepts call for the many signaled intersections along IN37
to be reconfigured into dog-bone shaped roundabouts mimicking theÂ successfulÂ design observed in Carmel.Â Indeed, the modifications would make commuting by automobile smooth for the thousands who currently use this corridor daily. Additionally, extra travel lanes would be added to facilitate more capacity for cars and the expected growth that Fishers & Noblesville are planning for.
However, these modifications would come at a tremendous cost to taxpayers. The study generated a final cost estimate for the intended design of over $347 million; or in more general and comparative terms, $63 million per mile.
Should we, as taxpayers, grant a blank check for this sort of money for such a small percentage of commuters? As with most roadway projects, it is likely that 80% of this would be paid for using federal tax dollars and it is fair to ask if this is a wise investment. With national trends indicating a drop in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) coupled with the local conversation regarding mass transit investments in Central Indiana, it flies in the face of logic why this much money should be spent on such a small portion of the regional transportation network.
Furthermore, the investments being called for here are financially comparable to the local investments that were recently turned down by the state for mass transit; HB1011. HB1011 could have lead to investments that would benefit the entire Central Indiana region, not a 5.5 mile stretch of roadway that arguably can be seen as a comfort project for those people who’ve chosen to live so far from their jobs.
A public conversation needs to happen when large roadway spending projects like this are proposed when others are turned down.
For further review of the IN37 study, the .PDF can be found here.