INDIANAPOLIS — After years of discussion and debate, reconstruction of the North Split in Downtown Indianapolis is coming soon.
The Indiana Department of Transportation announced Tuesday the $320 million project to redesign and reconstruct the state's second-most heavily traveled interchange will begin by the middle of December.
Construction will close portions of Interstates 65 and 70 on the northeast side of downtown and last two years.
The North Split project will replace or repair 32 bridges over 3.1 miles of highway, reconfigure traffic patterns and condense the size of the interchange, according to an environmental assessment conducted by INDOT.
Here is a look at how the construction project will affect traffic in Indianapolis for the next two years.
Which exit and entrance ramps will close?
- Construction will begin with the closure of the Michigan Street exit ramp from the I-65/I-70 collector/distributor road in early December. INDOT expects the ramp to be closed for approximately one year.
- The Ohio Street ramp will close for about one year after the Michigan Street exit ramp reopens.
- The entrance ramp from Pine Street to I-70 eastbound will be open at all times during the project.
- The exit ramp from I-70 westbound to the I-65/I-70 collector distributor road will also be open during the project.
Drivers should prepare and plan ahead
- While reconstruction occurs in 2021-22, through traffic will detour to Interstate 465. People traveling locally should plan ahead, find alternate routes and expect delays, according to INDOT.
- Interstates 65 and 70 between the North Split and Washington Street are expected to close in mid-May 2021. The ramps from I-70 westbound to I-65 northbound and I-65 southbound to I-70 eastbound will be open throughout the project.
Some city streets will close for bridge replacement
- INDOT expects local street closures to not last longer than 90 days, and contractors cannot have adjacent roads closed at the same time, such as Michigan Street and Vermont Street or College Avenue and Central Avenue.
- Washingon and Pennsylvania Streets will remain open throughout the project. Commuters can expect lane closures on Washington Street during bridge construction.
- Delaware Street will close for about 45 days for overhead bridge work.
How did we get here and why is this necessary?
Interstates around the country are reaching the end of their life spans, including those in Indianapolis. Traffic volume and crashes have increased since the North Split was constructed in the late 1960s.
The North Split is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of road in Indiana with more than 1,600 crashes occurring at the interchange from 2012-16 due to last-second merges, weaves and lane changes as drivers approached exits or entered the interstate, according to INDOT documents.
"Reconstructing the interchange will provide the opportunity to replace deteriorated infrastructure, improve safety and reduce congestion by realigning ramps and merges in the interchange area, and correcting existing weaving problems," the environmental assessment's authors wrote.
Opposition arose in 2017 to planned designs that included elevated highways, large embankment walls and noise barrier walls. A group consisting of business leaders, private citizens and organizations formed the Rethink 65/70 Coalition, which lobbied INDOT to consider ideas such as a recessed highway that would eliminate walls, berms and bridges that separate neighborhoods.
Some of the coalition's ideas will be adopted into the North Split project, and aesthetic improvements, such as planting trees and shrubs, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, decorative lighting and landscape architecture, will be included.
How has INDOT prepared?
INDOT has spent more than $4 million to upgrade approximately 500 traffic signals on Indianapolis streets to help traffic flow during North Split construction.
"The improvements include GPS synchronization to keep signal timing consistent and remote traffic management equipment to allow INDOT technicians to adjust signals remotely when needed during peak traffic," a news release from INDOT said. "INDOT is also making several infrastructure repairs and adjustment at local intersections to ensure safety for motorists and pedestrians."