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How would you change I-65 and I-70 in Indy? – Indianapolis News | Weather Indiana | Indiana traffic

(MIRROR INDY) — The roar is loud and constant inside Candace Miller’s home on West McCarty Street. Because she lives about 100 feet from the westbound lane of Interstate 70, she has been able to hear every vehicle every day for the past two and a half years.

She’s gotten used to the noise. The only time she worries about the highway is when other sounds break the roar, like crashes or sirens — or the rattle of a stranger trying to open her neighbor’s door. Sometimes, she says, they all happen at once.

The view from the porch of West Indianapolis resident Candace Miller on June 13, 2024. Her front door is only about 130 feet from the westbound lane of Interstate 70. (Supplied photo/Enrique Saenz/Mirror Indy)

“We’ve seen cars go off the road after getting into wrecks,” she said. “Then people jump the fence and try to get into people’s houses to avoid being caught by the police.”

Families living in dozens of West Indianapolis homes on McCarty Street, Wyoming Street and others that parallel the highway are separated from it only by an embankment, a few sparse trees and waist-high fencing.

A freeway sign on the westbound lane of Interstate 70, visible from the intersection of McCarty Drive and Warman Avenue on June 13, 2024. (Supplied photo/Enrique Saenz/Mirror Indy)

Miller said she would like some sound barriers to reduce noise, but she said the state should prioritize things that could protect her home, such as more lighting on the highway and more protective fencing on the levees.

“When it’s raining and it’s dark, you can’t see anything,” she said. “I think they should spend some money and make sure people who are driving can see better.”

Miller’s concerns are the kinds of comments the Indiana Department of Transportation wants to hear from Indianapolis residents as it considers the future of the Inner Loop, consisting of I-70 and Interstate 65.

Both highways were constructed in the 1970s and are nearing the end of their lifespan. INDOT plans to modernize them, but first wants to hear how residents think they should approach the upgrades.

The agency is taking public comments through its Pro Planning and Environment Linkages program, or ProPEL Indy, until June 30 and will hold several public information sessions around the city.

Original project split neighborhoods

When the Indianapolis portions of I-65 and I-70 were originally built, the freeways split neighborhoods, such as West Indianapolis, in the path of the selected inner loop routes. According to the October 15, 1976 issue of the Indianapolis Star, the projects demolished approximately 8,000 buildings, displacing approximately 17,000 residents.

Little attention was paid to the consequences of the projects for those neighborhoods. The projects were designed in the 1960s and predate the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental impact statements for major federal actions. That includes the impact a proposed project would have on the people living nearby.

Many residents were dissatisfied with the project at the time. Some would form groups, such as the West Indianapolis Neighborhood Congress, that would scrutinize future transportation projects and oppose the projects if they did not serve the interests of the community they represented. The group and other city residents successfully opposed the construction of a proposed Harding Street freeway that would have connected I-65 in the north via I-70 to I-465 in the south.

Construction projects around the needs of residents

ProPEL Indy project manager Tim Miller speaks during a public information session at the Rhodius Family Center on June 11, 2024. (Supplied photo/Enrique Saenz/Mirror Indy)

ProPEL Indy project manager Tim Miller said future interstate projects will be planned with the needs of the public, businesses and other organizations in mind, rather than imposing the needs of the projects on them.

“What we’re trying to ask people to do is reimagine how those highways function within our community, whether that’s from a mobility standpoint, a safety standpoint or an efficiency standpoint,” Miller said. “Rather than just throwing around ideas about this — saying this is how it will be — let’s have a conversation about how we want (interstates) to function in our community.”

The feedback state officials receive from the public will be used to make plans for the highway sometime next year. At that point they will ask for more input.

“This is a generational study,” Miller said. “It’s very important that people get involved.”

The view of the eastbound lane of Interstate 70 from the backyard of a West Indianapolis resident, June 13, 2024. (Supplied photo/Enrique Saenz/Mirror Indy)

Residents like Miller expressed concern that the relief effort was just a formality before the state builds newer and larger versions of the existing highway, such as the North Split project that connects I-65 and I-70 in the northeastern portion of the inner loop.

“They’ll pretend to say, ‘We’ll take your comments into consideration,’ just to say it and act like they want to support you, but in my experience, that feedback is never acted upon,” Miller said.

But others are optimistic about the prospects of changing the interstate system for the better.

“I am very impressed with their reach. I think they are taking it seriously,” said Jakob Morales, who works on the west side. “These are projects that will last a very long time and will affect millions of people. This is the future, so it’s important to them.”

Morales said he wants INDOT to completely redesign the interstate system.

“They should consider eliminating freeways and transforming them into slower boulevards that are dense, transit-oriented and that won’t leave us with these polluting freeways for the next 50 years,” he said.

What do you think?

ProPEL Indy will hold several more information sessions this month and will be accepting online public comments until June 30.

Tuesday June 18

Martin University

2186 N. Sherman Dr.

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Wednesday June 26

Guion Creek High School

4401 W. 52nd St.

4:00 PM – 6:00 PM

For more information, visit the ProPEL Indy website.