INDIANAPOLIS — Since last spring, drivers passing through Indianapolis have been impacted by extensive construction on the highway system surrounding the Circle City. INDOT's $350 million, 18 month North Split Project is more than halfway done. The well traveled roads are getting their first reconstruction since they opened in 1968.
While the work had to be done, it is a hassle for those who cannot avoid it. Right underneath a portion of the construction that's over College Avenue sits Sultana Cafe, a restaurant, bar and Hookah Lounge.
"We made it through COVID, we've made it through construction — throw it at us, we'll make it through it," Halley Alhendi, General Manager of Sultana Cafe, said.
While they're open and thriving, being next to the massive construction project does come with some challenges.
"I'm just tired of a dusty patio. I'm tired of every day, walking out, having to get mud off my tables," she said.
Alhendi says they also lose parking spots, have to clean off their windows more often because of all the dust and paint is chipping off their building. Their hours of operation, Alhendi says, spares them from the worst of it, but she, like many others, want to know when is this construction going to end.
"We're on schedule to open the North Split by the end of 2022," Mallory Duncan with the Indiana Department of Transportation said. "It's supposed to be warming up but you'll see a lot of different construction activities going on as we move through March and move through April. You're going to start seeing some bridge decks when we're able to pour concrete and lay asphalt."
Before its closure, the North Split was considered one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the state. According to documents from INDOT, more than 1,600 wrecks occurred at the interchange from 2012 to 2016. These wrecks happened cause of last-second merges, weaves and lane changes as drivers approached exits or entered the interstate.
It's a problem WRTV has been reporting on for decades. The report below is from 1979.
The North Split Project will remedy most of the safety issues, according to Duncan.
"We really needed to completely take down the North Split and rebuild it from the ground up. We had some crumbling infrastructure," Duncan said. "This North Split is going to be a project for generations to come. We're going to be able to see how it works. It's a smaller footprint, so that is good for pedestrians and neighbors."
Alhendi at Sultana Cafe says they're taking it all in stride, knowing it's for the greater good.
"It's a necessary thing. It absolutely needs to happen. We need those updates in Indy. Half our roads are god awful, but boy does it suck to be located right next to it," she said.
Once the North Split reopens, INDOT says they'll finish up aesthetic things like landscaping in 2023.