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Indianapolis Puts ’Update 38’ in the Fast Lane

Thu June 22, 2006 - Midwest Edition
Lori Lovely



With three world class motor races — the Indianapolis 500, NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 and the U.S. Grand Prix — drawing annual attention to the Hoosier capital, speed marks the cornerstone of Indianapolis’ reputation. The Department of Public Works (DPW) has adapted that basis of velocity for its latest road construction project by deeming Update 38: Phase III a “Fast Track” project.

In fact, it’s two of those races — the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 — that are driving the timeline on the project.

Because traffic for both races is heavy along the stretch of 38th Street between Michigan Road and I-65, work wasn’t scheduled to begin until May 29 — after the race. The corridor is scheduled to reopen Aug. 5 — before the second race.

Local news station WTHR-13 called it a “two-year project condensed into two months.” However, DPW’s Mike Smith said that’s an oversimplification.

“The entire scope of work will not be done during the full closure,” he said. “The project began in March with lane restrictions while some roadwork and bridgework was being done under traffic. The second phase of the project is the total closure where the majority of work is to be accomplished. The final phase was planned to finish the HMA surface course, pavement markings and incidental work.”

Phasing in the Updates

As Smith described the busy thoroughfare linking cultural and retail sections of Westside Indianapolis, 38th Street handles “very heavy” traffic — as many as 30,000 cars per day.

The deteriorating 35-year-old concrete pavement needed refurbishing, so in 1998 major stockholders along the route such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Crown Hill Cemetery, Indiana State Fairgrounds and The Maple Road Development Association offered input on ways to revitalize the corridor.

The result was a three-pronged plan.

At an estimated cost of $8.9 million, Phase I began in March 2003 and was all but finished in late 2005. From Martin Luther King Jr. Street to Salem Street, existing pavement was resurfaced or removed and replaced. Curbs and sidewalks were replaced, traffic signals and storm sewers were upgraded, and extensive landscaping was done.

Phase II picked up where its predecessor left off, at Salem Street. From there to Fall Creek Parkway, pavement, curbs and sidewalks were removed and replaced. Traffic signals and storm sewers were upgraded, and considerable landscaping was added — at a cost of $13.5 million. Work began in April 2004 and should be completed by the end of 2006.

Without waiting for Phase II to be completely finished, Phase III was ushered in. Under the supervision of General Contractor E & B Paving from Anderson, IN, subcontracts for bridge work, concrete pavement, storm sewer construction, pavement markings, and other related work plan to rehabilitate four bridge decks — two over the White River, two over the Indianapolis Water Company Canal.

Smith explained that bridge work includes “rehabilitating the existing decks and railings. The existing 40-plus year-old pavement will be cracked and seated and overlaid with HMA.”

Signals at two intersections will be upgraded, curbs and sidewalks replaced, and landscaping added. Despite the heavy volume of traffic, there are no plans to add new lanes.

On the Clock

The $5.9-million contract does include an incentive for early completion of Phase II and the reopening of 38th Street before the Brickyard 400 deadline.

The weather has cooperated and Smith expected to finish on time, but other factors are contributing in the race to the finish.

Crews are covering two shifts, with the shorter night shift responsible for most of the bridge demolition.

In addition to shift work, Smith explained that tasks are carefully choreographed to make the most of the limited time available.

“Certainly there is some work that can be done concurrently, an example being partial patching on the bridge decks,” he said. “One structure can have crews pouring the patching concrete while the other structures have crews preparing the deck for a later pour. Since there are no businesses or residences, we don’t have to be concerned with noise or construction traffic being disruptive, so work can be continuous 24/7.”

Because this segment of 38th Street has no residences or businesses for which to maintain access (except for the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Woodstock Country Club on the far east end, which can be accessed from Martin Luther King Jr. Street) and there are no cross streets to close that would result in more traffic disruption, Smith said it gave them the option to close the street entirely for the interim.

“Totally closing busy major thoroughfares takes years of planning and public outreach,” he explained. “Not all thoroughfares are candidates for this type of closure. No other major thoroughfare in Indianapolis would allow us this flexibility.”

The only road that intersects with 38th Street in the project limits, Cold Springs Road, is being maintained during construction for through-traffic only.

While shutting down roadways enables crews to work more quickly — and safely — closures adversely affect the community.

Smith said, “To minimize the impact to the public and major stakeholders, and to accommodate both races, this was the best period of time to totally close 38th Street and blitz construction. Given the scope of work to be done on this project, trying to maintain traffic during construction along this stretch of 38th Street would significantly increase costs, significantly increase construction time, and cause considerable stress to the motoring public using this roadway while under construction.”

To help inconvenienced drivers, Smith said the city of Indianapolis has made a concerted effort through public outreach for three years to prepare the public for this closure. Representatives of DPW, as well as major stakeholders including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, The Indiana State Fair, The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Woodstock Country Club, Marian College, and numerous surrounding neighborhood associations, have been involved through attendance at numerous public information meetings throughout construction, and the Public Information Office has worked with media to distribute updates through print media, radio and television.

For more information, visit www.indygov.org/38. CEG