I-70 in Indianapolis to Remain Open Through Major Fix

Sun December 03, 2006 - Midwest Edition
Charles Wilson -ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER



INDIANAPOLIS (AP) One of the state’s busiest sections of highway will remain open through a $175-million repair job that will take most of next year, state highway officials said Nov.13.

Workers will rebuild Interstate 70 on the east side of Indianapolis from scratch to make it safer and smoother for the 180,000 vehicles that travel the 6-mi. stretch on a daily basis.

They won’t, however, be adding any lanes to the congested road. Such expansion isn’t scheduled to begin before 2016, said Andy Dietrick, a spokesman of the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).

Repair is the theme for this project.

“This is a road that was built in the mid ’70s and really hasn’t been touched since,” Dietrick said.

“It’s getting pretty rough,” said William E. Rinard, deputy commissioner of the Greenfield state highway district, which will be overseeing the project.

The project, dubbed “Super 70,” will be the biggest single-season construction project INDOT has ever undertaken. The project includes I-70 from the eastern leg of Interstate 465 to downtown Indianapolis.

Officials said the pavement and bridge decks are deteriorating and need to be reconstructed from the ground up. The 7-ft. shoulders are too narrow for stalled vehicles to safely pull off and will be widened to 14 ft., which should help ease traffic flow, Dietrick said.

Preliminary work has already begun and finishing work will continue into early 2008, but the bulk of the construction — including lane restrictions and ramp closures that will mean delays or changed routes for commuters — will be done from February to November of next year.

Work will be done on the westbound lanes from March to July, with traffic flowing both directions on the eastbound side. From July to November, the opposite is to happen.

Ramps at Shadeland Avenue, Emerson Avenue and Keystone Avenue/Rural Street will be closed during the major work, turning the highway into an “expressway” of sorts, Dietrick said — though unlikely a fast drive.

“Once you’re in, you’re in until you hit downtown,” he said.

Much of I-70’s through traffic will be rerouted onto I-465, officials said, and some city streets will be upgraded to serve as alternate routes.

Safety makes the project necessary despite the potential for commuter stress, highway officials said.

“The cost to continue patching it up every year just to make it safe enough for traffic is too great,” said Thomas Sharp, the state highway commissioner. “It’s time to start from the ground up.”