Show Up–It’s Important!

Apologies to readers outside central Indiana, but this is important.

Local readers may have missed an announcement that there will be an “open house” to provide information on the System-Level Analysis of the entire downtown interstate system (aka the North Split) on Wednesday May 23, from 3:00 to 7:00, at the Biltwell Event Center, located at 950 S. White River Parkway S. Drive.

Presentations by INDOT–the Indiana Department of Transportation– will be given at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.  There will be an opportunity for attendees to weigh in–and given INDOT’S disinclination to listen to urban planners, local residents and Indianapolis leadership, a big turnout is really important.

A bit of background:

Indianapolis’ downtown Interstates are at the end of their useful life and are becoming unsafe. INDOT bureaucrats have made it clear that they see absolutely no reason to deviate from the approach they’ve used for 50 years: prioritize concrete over livability and treat in-city infrastructure no differently than interstates crossing rural cornfields. Build huge “buttress walls” and add lanes to the existing overpasses, increasing the length of the street-level “tunnels” that already make street-level walking and biking unpleasant and historic residential neighborhoods less livable.

Thus far, they’ve treated the civic leaders and downtown residents who want to use this opportunity to correct a fifty-year-old mistake as annoying interlopers.

Indianapolis certainly wasn’t the only city through which misguided bureaucrats rammed downtown highways–disrupting street grids, depressing commercial activity and destroying once-vibrant neighborhoods. There is now a half-century of research documenting the resulting damage to health, air quality and public safety in cities throughout the country. In addition to their very high maintenance costs, these structures play havoc with nearby property values and remove acres of prime real estate from the tax base.

Other cities have removed their downtown freeways, and the results have been uniformly positive.

Portland, OR, San Francisco, CA, and Milwaukee, WI replaced their downtown Interstates with boulevards, saving billions of dollars, increasing property values on adjacent land and restoring urban neighborhoods, and another ten cities are in the process of decommissioning theirs. Concerns about congestion and traffic delays have proved unfounded—exits from Interstates are limited, while boulevards allow access to the grid, so traffic moves more evenly.

The problem is that–although Indianapolis will bear the brunt of bad decisions– we don’t get to choose among available alternatives. The state controls the process, and resistance from INDOT has been intense–and disingenuous.

When local residents first objected to INDOT’s proposal to add lanes and erect towering walls as its “solution,” the agency insisted that illustrations produced by the Rethink committee (available at didn’t reflect the agency’s as-yet unfinished plans. Yet when INDOT finally unveiled its version, it was identical to those illustrations.

INDOT spokespersons dismissed tunneling as an alternative, citing enormous costs incurred in Syracuse, but neglecting to mention that Syracuse is tunneling through bedrock. (Indianapolis would dig a ditch through dirt.) INDOT has been equally dismissive of the boulevard alternative, which would be far less expensive to build and maintain than INDOT’s proposed repairs and additions to the existing Interstates.

When urban planners and residents of historic neighborhoods raised concerns about the impact on the urban fabric, INDOT responded that such matters aren’t their concern. Their reviews are limited to traffic movement and safety.

We need to make those negative impacts their concern.

INDOT is speeding this project through the required hearings in a transparent effort to forestall any changes to its standard, cookie-cutter approach by getting the project too far along to be changed.

We local citizens may not be able to change the direction of the nation–but we can make INDOT slow its rush to double down on a fifty-year-old mistake. We can show up Wednesday, we can petition the Governor (INDOT does have to listen to him), and we can insist that they genuinely consider the practical and cost-effective alternatives employed elsewhere.

If you live in the Indianapolis area, please make time on Wednesday to demonstrate that doing it right this time is important to a large number of residents–that we aren’t going away just because we are annoying bureaucrats who want to stay in their cookie-cutter comfort zone.

It’s really important.


  1. The last time this topic came up, I asked who are the primary contractors with INDOT who’ve established the game of “pay-to-play”?

    INDOT doesn’t build roads and it is notoriously one of the most corrupt government departments outside of IDEM. There is a revolving door between INDOT and those “pay-to-play” contractors.

    If the Gannett newspaper in Indy was a free press, you’d all be armed with the facts…INDOT is speeding along as it works side by side with profit-maximizing contractors.

    The City of Anderson was speeding along with plans to dam the White River and build a reservoir to cover up decaying infrastructure and contaminated property. Their local newspaper was cheerleading the project along and getting quotes from Pence and other state officials.

    The anti-reservoir folks formed a group and held its own meetings that weren’t funded by the Chamber of Commerce. They were ignored as “NIMBY’s”.

    Then I read the engineers report who spent a minimum of $50,000 on donations to Indiana GOP and in return was paid over three times that for the engineer report including projections.

    It didn’t take long for me, an independent journalist to rip apart the report. They didn’t even have a buyer for the water. They ignored the contaminated land.

    Ball State University THEN jumped in and ripped the report to shreds. The reservoir project failed even after Anderson rewrote the procedures on how to get the law approved.

    I am sure Nestle was behind the project because of their high use of water. Nevertheless, the project died because it relied on a statewide engineer who produced trash to justify the project.

    Developers already had plans for high priced homes along the reservoir which would restrict access to the public. Of course.

    Therefore, you better find out who plans to profit from the INDOT contract and call them out. Otherwise, your appeals will fall on deaf ears because INDOT is just a puppet department.

  2. “Thus far, they’ve treated the civic leaders and downtown residents who want to use this opportunity to correct a fifty-year-old mistake as annoying interlopers.”

    Are not these “annoying interlopers” a major source for tax dollars to carry out whichever plans are agreed to or forced on the downtown area? I was relieved to see this vital reference included, “There is now a half-century of research documenting the resulting damage to health, air quality and public safety in cities throughout the country.” If these issues and the “impact on urban fabric” are not INDOT’s concern; how is their concern regarding “traffic movement and safety” explained as not including the increased damage their plans produce? Is I-69 not an INDOT issue? Drive from Indianapolis to Bloomington to experience the years of unfinished results of ignoring damage to health, air quality and public safety; plus destruction of one of the most beautiful areas in this state. Picture this worked into the current downtown interstate situation; they plan to somehow resolve problems by pouring more cement and erecting more of those “buttress walls” blocking air circulation and holding vehicle emissions in confined areas.

    “INDOT is speeding this project through the required hearings in a transparent effort to forestall any changes to its standard, cookie-cutter approach by getting the project too far along to be changed.”

    What exactly is their “transparent effort” other than meetings to inform the public what they are going to do; then allow the public to voice their complaints and close the meeting? This is another example of “Follow The Money” and a very expensive one to Indianapolis and Indiana residents. Who are the contractors our millions of dollars in tax money will be going to? We know where they intend to get the money but I can’t help but wonder “how” residents can continue paying recently added tax sources and increasing amounts of established sources.

  3. Good luck. It sounds familiar with several Er, disagreements in Texas. Joann, wis we could talk.

  4. I searched hoping to find a type petition that tallies the number of people who have signed. There is some motivating power in seeing the growing numbers behind a cause. If one of you is more computer-savvy than me and finds an online petition, please tell us. I find the Facebook page with address of the governor and others we can write, but do those letters really reach the man at the top?

  5. In say 2-3 decades, after this project is complete and running but still widely considered as new, much of the traffic using it will be shared, autonomous electric vehicles.

    What design accommodates that profound change best?

  6. The problem is that these decisions have been made, and those who stand to profit are just waiting for the process to play out whereby it appears that citizens are being given input on what has already been decided. Neither the State nor the City of Indianapolis cares about concerns from residents, impact on neighborhoods or property values. They stand with developers and others who will benefit from taxpayer money for construction. As I have learned from attempting to use logic to oppose Red Line and cheaply constructed out of place tall buildings in Meridian Kessler, these decisions were made before neighbors had any idea what was happening, and, as Sheila points out, no matter what logical arguments citizens make nor the experiences of other cities, they have a counter argument or pat answer.

  7. Again, I find someone else’s statement to also mirrors my opinion. Natacha, unfortunately what you say is true.
    Showing up Wednesday may prove enlightening to many, but how effective will that be with the knowledge the movers and shakers have already moved and shaken on this subject and no amount of enlightenment will change that.

  8. Sorry, I do know how to write……”to also mirrors” means nothing, but you get my drift.

  9. Maywin; I also fully agree with Natacha. As for your writing errors; I am sure you will find all help you need to compose messages properly at your local library;-)

  10. Definitely on board that the original routing was a mistake, for reasons cited. However, the Re-think website does not offer an alternative route. So, which other neighborhood will be slashed through? Or, which new terrain will be consumed?

    As someone who fought new terrain use on I-69 not too long ago, I have very mixed feelings.

  11. I see we have an interesting ally in this fight against INDOT’s north split project in the comments. But they still can’t resist digging the Red Line, which is completely different from this.

    I won’t convince them of that, but I will be showing up at the INDOT meeting tomorrow, along with many other local citizens.

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