INDIANAPOLIS — Detour damage.
Concerned homeowners and businesses say the North Split construction is taking its toll— detouring cars and trucks are causing damage to city streets, light poles and crosswalks.
WRTV Investigates has learned the City of Indianapolis is conducting an analysis of the damage and gathering a cost estimate—which will then be shared with INDOT, who will be on the hook for at least part of the repair costs.
The North Split project is multi-million dollar plan that started in May 2021 and closed Interstate 65 between the north and south splits. INDOT's goal is to get rid of factors that cause crashes and congestion.
Supply chain and workforce shortages have delayed the end of the North Split construction.
The official detour for the North Split is I-465.
However, some cars and trucks instead opt to use city streets instead—and the extra traffic is causing damage to city streets and city property.
Dan Evans is the executive director of Good News Ministries, which operates a shelter, youth home, and thrift store.
The Good News Ministries’ campus spans both sides of Washington and Rural, an intersection used by cars and trucks looking for a detour around the North Split construction.
Evans says the traffic has changed since the North Split project began.
“It’s gotten immensely worse,” said Evans. “It’s just constant. They’re too big, they don’t fit!”
Evans showed WRTV damage to a light pole and said semi-trucks have hit light poles at the intersection half a dozen times since North Split construction began in May 2021.
"It’s because the semis are trying to make these turns, and they just can’t make them,” said Evans. “This is the pole they've been knocking over all the time. You can see it's been damaged. It's been hit again since the last time they knocked it over which was two weeks ago.”
Evans said detouring vehicles have caused an increase in traffic backups and crashes as well, some of which have damaged Good News Ministries’ property.
"That concrete work over there, that's us trying to stop these vehicles from entering our building,” said Evans. “They keep breaking the glass, so we put a concrete bunker in there to stop it."
Evans estimates the detour damage to city streets in the “millions of dollars.”
David Price has lived in the Englewood neighborhood for 30 years and is also concerned about the damage.
“This intersection isn’t meant for semi traffic,” said Price. “There’s not the clearance to get around this corner.”
Price also pointed out a sidewalk ramp is now missing chunks of concrete.
“Now it's totally inaccessible to any of our neighbors needing it,” said Price. “You have about a six inch drop, so there's no way anyone with a wheelchair could get through that intersection. They'd have to go out in traffic putting themselves in harm’s way."
Price snapped pictures of trucks taking out light poles and stop lights and sent them to WRTV Investigates.
He wants to know how much the damage is costing taxpayers and who is going to pay for it.
“That’s why I contacted you,” said Price. “I was hoping someone could raise awareness that this is an issue for us.”
WRTV Investigates filed records requests with INDOT and the Indianapolis Department of Public Works asking for a list of damage to city streets and property caused by detours and the cost of the repairs.
We have not received that information, but Indianapolis DPW agreed to speak with us.
DPW spokesperson Ben Easley said they do not have a cost estimate, but they’re conducting an analysis to come up with a dollar figure.
“That’s what we are assessing,” said Easley. “We are looking at College Avenue, New York Street, Michigan Street and all the other little ones that have been impacted by detouring traffic.
Easley said DPW will be concentrating on wear and tear to pavement.
"It's a little hard to decipher which damage or wear and tear might have happened to detouring interstate traffic versus just regular local traffic that also wears and tears on our streets,” said Easley. “That's the process we are in right now."
WRTV Investigates asked whether the city will get any money to help cover the cost of the repairs.
“Yes, DPW and INDOT worked together before the beginning of the project with the understanding that there would be impacts to local roadways,” said Easley. “There was an expectation they would put together funds to repair some of those locations afterward."
It’s not yet clear how much the city could receive in state money to help repair city streets.
“It's fair to say we are doing our best to coordinate with INDOT specifically in areas where pavement has been deteriorated as part of the north split project to make that whole,” said Easley. “We are doing our best effort."
Repairs to city streets will not begin until the North Split construction is complete, which isn’t expected until early 2023.
WRTV Investigates contacted INDOT regarding damage to city streets.
“INDOT is working closely with Indy DPW to identify areas where repairs may be needed on local streets following North Split construction,” said INDOT Strategic Communications Director Natalie Garrett in an email to WRTV. “The two agencies are coordinating efforts to finalize the scope, cost and timeline for these activities.”
Garrett emphasized “the official detour for North Split continues to follow I-465.”
INDOT has received 840 customer inquiries related to the North Split.
Just under 200 reference local streets in some capacity, said Garrett.
Of those, around 10 inquiries are related to damage to local streets, signs or signals, said Garrett.
It’s not illegal for cars and trucks to use city streets as a detour.
WRTV checked with the Indianapolis Metro Police Department.
“Regarding semis downtown, as long as they are not carrying flammable or dangerous materials, there is nothing that prohibits them from driving downtown,” IMPD said in a statement to WRTV. “We have not taken enforcement action because this has not been the case thus far.”
Dan Evans with Good Life Ministries says it’s too late for enforcement anyway.
“The damage has already been done,” said Evans.
INDOT has installed detour signs along I-74, I-69, I-465, I-65 and I-70.
“Detour and load restriction signs have also been added to existing sign structures heading toward the project area (with the purpose of deterring trucks exiting the interstate onto local streets), as well as specific messaging on INDOT’s dynamic message signs (DMS) well in advance of the closure,” said Garrett in an email to WRTV.
Additionally, closure information and detour routes are shown on INDOT’s Trafficwise map and mobile app (511in.org), specifically in the “Commercial Vehicle” section/layer.