|12/11/2015 12:01:00 AM|
$124M project to bring roundabouts to Ind. 37
By Betsy Reason
|Proposed roundabout at Ind. 37 and 146th Street. Rendering provided by the Governor's Office|
|Indiana Department of Transportation commissioner Brandye Hendrickson, Hamilton County Commissioners Christine Altman and Mark Heirbrandt, Gov. Mike Pence, Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear and Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness. The Times photo by Betsy Reason|
FISHERS - Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday traveled to Fishers and joined local and state officials to reveal plans to invest $124 million in infrastructure improvements to Indiana 37 in Hamilton County beginning in the year 2018.
The project is proposed in two phases with Phase I addressing the most heavily congested intersections, which are between 126th and 146th streets.
Four of those intersections would be upgraded to roundabout interchanges, at 126th, 131st, 141st and 146th streets. At 135th Street, the traffic signal would be removed and the intersection would be reconfigured to a right-turn only intersection.
"If you're not familiar with roundabouts, you're not from here," said Pence, with a grin as he made the announcement in front of a crowd of more than 200 people who gathered at Delaware Township Community Center in Fishers.
"This is a great example of good government in Indiana," Pence said.
"We are going to install a more vibrant artery for growth and opportunity for Hoosiers for generations to come with this announcement today," said Pence, who also said the projects would bring jobs to the county.
Pence acknowledged Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt, Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness and Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear for their collaboration on the project, which turns Ind. 37 into a free-flow parkway, similar to Keystone Parkway in Carmel.
In the last five years, Hamilton County had reported three of the fastest growing communities in the state of Indiana: Fishers, No. 1; Noblesville, 2; and Carmel, No. 3, in growth. In the past 25 years, Fishers has grown from a population of 7,187 in 1990 to an estimated 88,000 today and projected that the community would grow 135,000 by 2040. This growth is expected to continue across Hamilton County. "Infrastructure upgrades and improvements are vital and imperative," Pence said.
Under the agreement, Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) would provide $100 million in state federal funding toward the improvement of Ind. 37 to be matched by $24 million; Fishers and Hamilton County each would provide $12 million in local funding contributions.
Hamilton County's Local Funding of $12 million would be funded by refinancing $1 million of the Highway County Option Income Tax (COIT) bond debt service that retires in the 2017 tax year/2018 collection year, available to pledge in 2018.
Phase I would take two to three years to complete.
During the project, INDOT will transfer control of the road to the City of Fishers for the period of time during construction. When construction is finished, the City would give the road back to the State.
"INDOT is committed to working with communities in every corner of Indiana to make needed investments in infrastructure," INDOT commissioner Brandye Hendrickson said. "In addition to the more than $250 million INDOT allocates to Hoosier communities each year for local projects we'll continue to seek out partnerships like the one we're announcing today so that we can leverage state and local dollars to maximize our impact and achieve the best value for taxpayers."
Fadness called the project an "innovative approach to solving a problem." The City of Fishers would manage the project during construction, "so we can ensure we have constant and direct communication with our stakeholders and be sensitive to their needs," said Fadness, who expects the project to begin construction in the spring of 2019, with a three-year process. He said Fishers' part of the funding would come from a General Obligation bond. "We're hoping not to have any tax increase," Fadness said. "We're cautiously optimistic."
Thursday, a letter from the City of Fishers went out to every landowner along Ind. 37 corridor asking if the landowner would like a private meeting with the City to start talking about their individual issues, he said.
"That first step toward communication will continue throughout the entire process, and we look forward to building a stronger partnership with our businesses and our homeowners along the 37 corridor," said Fadness, who offered a sign-up sheet on a table in the back of the room for businesses to leave their contact information.
"Under this current arrangement, we're going to lay the groundwork for future expansion, so all of the environmental design is going to be done all the way to (Ind.) 32," Fadness said.
That's in preparation for the Phase II project, which involves improvements to Ind. 37 north of 146th Street. Phase II would cost an estimated additional $25 million, comprised of contributions from three local entities, $16.5 million from Noblesville, $4.5 million from Fishers and $4.5 million from Hamilton County.
Ditslear said Pleasant Street in Noblesville would likely be the first interchange to get attention in Phase II, with construction of another roundabout, "because we want to get traffic away from downtown." The intersections of Greenfield Avenue and Ind. 32 are also expected to be improved, Ditslear said.
While the completion of both phases is six to seven years away, County Commissioner Christine Altman said, "It truly is a Phase I and a Phase II project." She said, "The (Noblesville) mayor has the commitment from all of the partners; we have one more intersection north to do. When Noblesville's able to garner their funds, we will all contribute to that project."
Heirbrandt, who Fadness called a "bulldog" on the project, refused to take individual credit. Heirbrandt not only commended Altman but also the county's third commissioner, Steve Dillinger, who was on vacation and unable to be at the announcement. Heirbrandt said collaboration on the project was "a team approach."
For several years, traffic congestion has caused frustration for drivers and concerns for public safety, he said. "For several years, we've had State Road 37 as a top priority for Hamilton County for infrastructure improvements."
In 2010, the Hamilton County Commissioners with approval of the Hamilton County Council commissioned the State Road 37 Mobility Study. This study revealed that if we didn't do something to fix State Road 37, gridlock will ensue. We took these issues and concerns to Governor Mike Pence. And he listened."
Pence then went to work with the City of Fishers, the City of Noblesville, the County, and Indiana Department of Transportation officials to see what could be done on Ind. 37.
Heirbrandt said, "The cooperation between Governor Pence and the local governmental entities has made this a truly unique project that will serve all members of the region well."
Thursday's announcement attracted a who's who of local, county and state officials, lawyers, architects and politicians, plus some interested general public. State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) and Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) were among the crowd.
Cook said, "I think it's a great opportunity. It's so congested down here, as all of us know that drive this way very much."
Kenley, who drives Ind. 37 daily to downtown Indianapolis, said, "This is really huge, in a sense of being a problem solver for so many people on the northeast side of town."
Heirbrandt said there would be many meetings to come, with not only the individual consultations with businesses, but also public forums with the community.
The proposed project will not go before Hamilton County Council and the City Councils for appropriation and resolution for funding, and then design stage.
"I'm excited about the collaboration that went forth with all of the local municipalities and the state government," Heirbrandt said. "I think there are a lot of people who are excited to see this thing come to fruition."
For more information on the Ind. 37 improvements, visit www.fishers.in.us/SR37ImprovementProject.
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