Keystone Ave. interchange construction project causes concerns with traffic

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By Afra Hussain
<ahussain@hilite.org>

Driving to school never took that long for senior Ann Clark. The commute normally took her five to seven minutes depending on traffic. That was before May 27 of this year when construction on Keystone Avenue and 116th Street started. This school year she takes a new route to school, one that will take her twice the time as last year’s route.

Clark is not the only one who takes an alternate route to school this year. Project Carmel Link, a plan to create free flowing traffic all the way to 96th Street, closed the intersections at Keystone Avenue and 116th Street, as well as Keystone and 126th Street at the end of last May. Those two intersections tentatively open on Dec. 1. By the time the project is complete there will be five interchanges at six intersections.

Originally, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) handled the construction concerning Keystone. The INDOT’s plan added a third lane and many turn lanes to Keystone Avenue.

“We felt like that wasn’t providing the citizens of Carmel a long term solution,” Keystone Project manager Jeremy Kashman said.

Through a long process of negotiations with the city of Carmel, INDOT relinquished certain sections of Keystone Avenue. To address the congestion along Keystone, the city adopted Project Carmel Link. INDOT allocated $90 million to Carmel to make the project possible.

Keystone has historically been a barrier between the east and west sides of Carmel. Instead of a third lane as INDOT previously suggested, the project will build new interchanges, which will be teardrop-shaped roundabouts, at certain intersections. Pedestrian facilities such as multi-use paths on either sides of the bridge will be available for residents to use. The paths on the 106th Street bridge and the 126th Street bridge are 10 feet wide. The purpose of the path is to provide a safe way to cross over Keystone.

“It’s better on the environment. The project not only has a traffic component but also (has) an environmental component,” Kashman said. Some of Project Carmel Link’s aims include reducing air and noise pollution and fuel consumption.

Clark, on the other hand, worries about the many interchanges that will exist in the future.

“I feel that it might create an accident,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know how to use roundabouts and that creates a lot of chaos.”

Other than that concern, she said that she is not opposed to the final potential outcome. Clark said that both the benefits of less traffic in the future and the environmentally-friendly pedestrian facilities appeal to her.

While the long-term benefits seem promising, Clark said that the current situation does not. Another concern for her was the traffic that the construction sites would divert onto detour routes. Clark’s new route consists of going down to Gray Road from her 106th Street neighborhood of Woodland Springs. From Gray Road she crosses 146th Street and then she merges onto Keystone Avenue.

Clark said that she also worries that officials will not keep traffic in line and out of neighborhoods. “I don’t feel like they (officials) are totally willing to help you. Maybe they will do a little something but not totally help in the process,” she said. Clark said that she hoped that there would be a way for the officials to keep detour routes less congested.

Kashman said that he assures that the project considers traffic carefully.

“We have looked at traffic over a broader area than just Keystone,” he said. Kashman also said that the Carmel Police department will watch carefully over the detour routes. He said, “Obviously, we do know that there will be people that will use alternate routes.”

Clark said she is still unsure about what to think. “I’m in the middle (and) I’m not sure. I’m very against it because traffic is going to be awful but I understand the purpose,” she said. “It’s going to take everyone so much more time.”

ROUNDING UP THE PROJECT DATES

  • May 27, 2008: 126th St. and 106th St. intersections closed
  • July 2008: 136th St. intersection closed
  • Dec. 1, 2008: 126th St. and 106th St. intersections open
  • Spring 2009: 116th St. and Carmel Dr. intersections close
  • Dec. 2009: 116th St. and Carmel Dr. intersections open
  • Spring 2010: 131st St. closes

CARMELLINK.ORG / SOURCE

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