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Downtown Indianapolis’ North Split to undergo massive reconstruction project

North Split/image from INDOT

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Expect some major changes for the I-65/I-70 North Split in downtown Indianapolis, one of the most heavily traveled interchanges in the state.

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) revealed details about upcoming work on the interstate. It will include repairs on deteriorating bridges and pavement upgrades in addition to improvements meant to reduce traffic congestion and increase safety.

The project will include the I-65/I-70 interchange, south along I-65/I-70 to Washington Street, west along I-65 to Meridian Street and east along I-70 near the Keystone/Rural Street interchange.

“It is probably the most traveled interchange in the state of Indiana,” said INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness.  “We’re talking about 170,000 vehicles per day.  That’s not only passenger vehicles, but also semi trucks.  So safety, capacity, and the integrity of the entire stretch is extremely important as we’re going forward.”

The entire North Split interchange will be completely reconstructed. INDOT officials said the interchange was built 50 years ago and is “nearing the end of its useful life.” The North Split interchange accommodates approximately 170,000 vehicles daily and is operating at full capacity. The agency said the North Split does not meet current design standards.

Although the total cost of the project is not yet known, one estimate based on current construction costs was around $250 million.

INDOT expects to hold open houses in the winter, with preliminary designs being drafted by mid-2018. INDOT plans to select a contractor in 2019, with construction set to start between late 2019 and 2021. No specific date has yet been set.

The time frame for construction is also not known, although it is expected to last several years.  INDOT plans to design about 25-percent of the project and let competing contractors submit plans for the remaining 75-percent of the plan.  Until those plans come in, INDOT officials say they won’t know specifics about how the construction will affect drivers through the area.  However, traffic patterns and flow are expected to be impacted as bridges are being rebuilt and ramps are being redesigned.

“There will be impacts to through traffic on the interstates,” said North Split Project design lead, Seth Schickel.  “And of course there will be impacts to cross streets, the interstates and downtown area, north split area.”

It is not known yet if the construction will require INDOT to completely shut down I-65 or I-70 at any point.

“Some of those decisions about timing and about actual construction methods and maintenance of traffic will be made by that contractor,” Schickel said.  “So right now when we’re in the preliminary design and environmental phase, it’s too early to tell.”

The expansive project will repair or replace 32 bridges and address deteriorating pavement that has required extensive repairs and patching in the last few years. The current North Split also includes several lane change configurations that INDOT hopes to simplify.

In 2003, INDOT undertook the “HyperFix,” a project to reconstruct the pavement between the North and South splits. Work on the North Split has included only essential repairs to specific ramps and bridges. The new project would be the first to completely reconstruct the North Split since it was built in 1968.

An environmental analysis of the project will be undertaken to gauge the impact on homes, businesses and the environment. The project is part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s “Next Level Roads” initiative and is fully funded, INDOT said.

The state will be in control of the project from start to finish.  The Next Level Roads initiative gives INDOT the authority to make funding available for the project as needed.