by Megan Trent
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (August 8, 2014) - Driving in rush hour traffic along State Road 37 between Noblesville and Fishers can be frustrating. Cars wait in backed up traffic, hoping red lights will finally turn green. Hamilton County officials say traffic in the area has increased dramatically in recent years, and they have a plan to wake the county up from its traffic nightmare. They hope to change nine intersections to roundabout interchanges.
Bradley Davis is the Director of the Hamilton County Highway Department. He says, in 2008 a coalition was formed between the Highway Department, Fishers, Noblesville, the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization. They studied the traffic congestion problems along S.R. 37.
"What the consensus of the group was and what was endorsed was to change the intersections to interchanges so that we could separate the grades, allow a free flow of traffic movement on S.R. 37, improve the cross traffic movements as well, and basically improve the corridor," says Davis. "It would then serve traffic for many, many, many years and take care of the problems we're seeing out there now."
Davis says nine roundabouts on S.R. 37 between S.R. 32 in Noblesville and 126th Street in Fishers would not only improve traffic flow, but also provide economic benefits, improve safety, provide better access to businesses, connect neighboring communities and cut down on air and noise pollution. He says it's also about the needs of the people who live and work in the area.
"It's a quality of life issue. That's how we're looking at it. People move to Hamilton County for a lot of reasons. One of the reasons they move to Hamilton County is, of course, the schools and the quality of life that we have here, but that's going to go away if we have gridlock. People in Noblesville aren't going to be able to get work. Businesses in the Noblesville or Fishers areas are not going to be able to have a reliable timeline to get to Indianapolis or get to their job or to get to the airport."
People who live in Hamilton County have had mixed reactions to the proposal. Keith Kesler lived and worked in Hamilton County for many years, and says the intersection of S.R. 37 and S.R. 32 is too big for a roundabout. "I don't think at this intersection it's a very good idea at all with as crowded as it is, as large as it is. I just see collisions, and I don't see it speeding things up."
Denise Haws, who lives and works in Hamilton County, disagrees. "The roundabouts are here, some of them already. I also work in Carmel. They're all over Carmel. I find them very efficient, as long as people know how to drive in them."
Hannah Ikerd supports the idea of roundabouts as well. "I actually really like roundabouts. I think they save quite a bit of gas and usually help with traffic flow."
The project would come with a heft price tag - about $243 million for all nine roundabouts. "We don't know where all that money will come from yet," says Davis. "We have to have a plan first and identify the problem, which we did, and the solution. Now we are going to try to work on how we can come together as Hamilton County communities and together maybe partner with the state of Indiana and try to come up with a solution to make it work."
Even if funding is secured soon, Davis says it would take at least three years before construction could begin. After that, he says it would take another three to four years to complete all phases of construction on the nine roundabouts.