Thanks to Gov. Daniels' innovative Major Moves transportation program, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) will begin making major improvements to one of the state's most heavily traveled highways, I-70 from the east side of Indianapolis to the north split downtown. Preliminary work has been occurring along the six-mile stretch of interstate since August, mostly during off-peak hours. Major lane restrictions and the bulk of construction work will happen during the 2007 construction season.
"The name of the game here is safety, simply because of the number of cars and trucks using the aging roadway every day," said INDOT Commissioner Thomas Sharp. "The cost to continue patching it every year just to make it safe enough for traffic is too great. It's time to start from the ground up."
The stretch of I-70 from the I-465 east leg to downtown is one of the most heavily traveled roadways in the state of Indiana, carrying nearly 180,000 vehicles per day. I-70 was completed in the early 1970s and has never been rebuilt. Pavement and bridge decks are deteriorating, inside shoulders are too narrow, it's difficult for motorists to see around curves and vertical clearance at many of the bridges is too low.
"We're going to eliminate this corridor's deficiencies in one construction season," said Sharp. "It's an aggressive schedule, and we're committed to staying on time. By this time next year, I-70 from the east side to downtown will be smoother, safer and better able to handle high volumes of freight and commuter traffic."
The majority of the work on the project, named "Super 70" because of its size, complexity and aggressive construction schedule, will be largely completed in one construction season. The two contracts that make up the Super 70 project were awarded to Walsh Construction Co. in August.
When complete, the $175 million project will feature:
75 lane miles of new pavement on inside and outside shoulders and all travel lanes;
28 new bridge decks;
Wider, safer inside shoulders (14 ft instead of the current 7 ft);
An overpass at Sherman Drive to improve visibility and drainage (I-70 currently passes underneath Sherman Drive);
New signage and lighting; and
New pavement markings.
During construction in 2007, most on- and off-ramps at Keystone/Rural, Emerson and Shadeland avenues will be closed to traffic in order to provide a safe environment for work crews and those traveling in the construction zone. Lane restrictions on I-70 before the beginning of construction are limited to evenings and weekends. Weekday and daytime restrictions will begin in late February and continue through November 2007.
"We have a responsibility to provide as safe an environment as we can," Sharp said. "We know there will be some disruption with the ramps closed, but it's the safest, quickest way to rebuild the highway."
During the Super 70 construction, 1-465 will be used as an alternative route for traffic traveling through Indianapolis. Traffic normally entering or exiting the interstate at Keystone/Rural, Emerson and Shadeland avenues will be directed to alternate routes on city streets. Those routes are listed on the I-70 website at www.super70.in.gov. Through the construction zone, lanes will be controlled, so that there will be three lanes into the downtown and two going out of the downtown area during morning rush hour. That will be reversed during evening rush hour.
In addition to interstate improvements, INDOT is investing $1 million to improve city streets that will serve as the alternative routes. Those improvements will include adding or widening turn lanes and adding traffic-detection loops at intersections and resurfacing streets. INDOT also will add a second right turn lane on I-465 and Pendleton Pike, resurface Shadeland from 49th Street to 42nd Street and conduct extensive work on Massachusetts Avenue. INDOT also is providing funding to the city of Indianapolis to offset the cost of changing traffic-signal timing and making other necessary improvements to local roads.
The following is a construction timeline for the project:
2006 - Preliminary work on I-70, mostly during off-peak hours. No major lane restrictions expected.
2007 - February to July: construction on the north side (westbound travel lanes) of I-70. July to November: construction on the south side (eastbound travel lanes) of I-70.
2008 - March to June: final finishing work. No major lane restrictions expected.