INDOT proposes plan for safer North Split

INDOT unveiled a plan for a revamped North Split that will change how you get downtown.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — INDOT rolled out plans for safety upgrades to the North Split at a public meeting Wednesday night.

It's a zone that sees about a quarter-million vehicles every day. It's also an area with crash rates higher than on other interstate highways statewide.

INDOT's plan to rehab bridges and roadways around the I-65/I-70 North Split targets more than falling concrete. A lot of drivers complain about the split and its sometimes deadly crashes.

Eastbound, the I-65/I-70 merge has the third-highest crash rate in the area and if you're northbound taking the curve to 70 East, you're entering the fourth-highest accident rate area in that stretch of interstate.

"I can't count how many semi trucks and people died in accidents on Dead Man's Curve," said driver Vernon Ray Compton.

He's talking about that point where traffic off I-65 and I-70 westbound converge and crossover each other's lanes while they head for exit ramps.

The problem is weaving - too many vehicles crossing paths to get where they're going.

"The big weave is also eliminated. We've actually got three weaves," said a project planner to a downtown resident studying what INDOT calls "Option 4C."

The plan's upside is safety. I-70 and I-65 traffic would stay in their own lanes with no weaving.

"Eliminating that would be a good improvement," Compton said.

Lorraine Vavul, a MidNorth neighborhood resident, said, "I think it would help. I like that it's reducing the weaving."

The downside is that I-70 westbound traffic can no longer exit at Pennsylvania and Meridian streets. Also, southbound I-65 drivers would lose their exit ramps to Michigan and Ohio streets.

Bob, who lives downtown, questioned one of the planners about losing the exit ramp he usually takes on his way home from work on I-65 southbound.

"You can get off on Meridian Street," the planner replied to Bob's surprise. "And access this way."

That plan utilizes surface streets, meaning slower rush hour traffic and red lights.

"Right now, I go 'Boom! Right to North (Street)'," Bob replied. But not if his ramp to Ohio and Michigan is eliminated.

"I don't think it went far enough in putting communities back together and I don't think it went far enough in economic development," Vavul said.

She and others supported sinking the interstate into a channel below its current route. Critics say that idea is too expensive and would take a decade to build.

The project is still in its early stages. INDOT calls the plan "compact." It doesn't add travel lanes or expand the size of the interstate and where it uses retaining walls, it goes with smaller walls than in previous plans.

The plan may not be ready for approval until 2020. INDOT is still taking public comment.