First of all, I should note that this interchange is in no way under consideration for redesign by INDOT. Lord knows they have bigger things to deal with right now. I'm well aware that I'm dealing with a pipe dream here.
That said, let's start off by looking at some of the problems with this area:
- The road is extremely wide, presenting a huge barrier to pedestrians.
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. (DMLK Jr.) and West St. are viewed by many motorists as an extension of the expressway. The speed limit drops to 35MPH immediately at 11th St., yet people frequently rip down the road at speeds close to or even exceeding 55MPH. The Indy Metro Police don't seem to care at all about this since I've never seen someone pulled over in the three-plus years I've been living in the area (both in Ransom Place and along the canal). Obviously, this is very bad for pedestrians.
- The DMLK Jr. northbound cross-over is confusing, complicated and kludgey. You have to go through three ill-timed lights to go from the point it splits (near 9th St.) past 11th St. This is quite a hindrance to people that want to travel that way.
There are many things to like about this design:
- It moves the I-65 southbound merger with DMLK Jr. further to the north. This has multiple effects. First, it provides a ramp over DMLK Jr. northbound traffic, eliminating the need for the kludgey DMLK Jr. northbound cross-over. Second, it places I-65 on city streets earlier and onto an underutilized road. This should help to slow down traffic while helping to revitalize this forgotten corridor.
- It restores a semblance of the normal street grid around the interchange. The current DMLK Jr. becomes one-way-south and a new road is built for one-way-north, connecting to the current Northwestern Ave. near 16th St. The I-65 northbound off-ramp is realigned to 12th St. (the proposal incorrectly identifies this as I-70 West), giving it direct access to both DMLK Jr. north and south.
- A roundabout is built at the intersection of 16th and DMLK Jr. The normally light-to-moderate traffic patterns, along with generous land available around this intersection make it an excellent candidate for the first downtown roundabout (Monument Circle isn't a true roundabout as you must stop before entering).
- The large landscaped boulevard between north and southbound DMLK Jr. is a wonderful addition and should help immensely with the walkability of the area.
- The Canal Walk is extended all the way to 16th St., albeit with a break at the expressway. Again, this should be a boon to this forgotten corridor.
(Aside: does anybody know the name of this neighborhood? If I had to guess, the housing style seems to date it to something around 1950.)
Now, contrast the "Triumph" proposal with the plan put forth in the winning "Gateway Circle" proposal:
This looks like a horrible mess, and I think it is. As I said, I'm no expert in transportation planning, but I find it hard to believe that this will work effectively during peak rush-hour traffic. As I understand it, traffic circles and roundabouts work well up to a saturation point, after which they become less efficient at moving cars than traditional intersections. This interchange sees a huge amount of traffic during morning and evening rush-hour and would likely saturate this design twice daily, leading to gridlock.
Even if my traffic analysis of this design is dead wrong (a distinct possibility), I can't get past the fact that this plan is arguably worse for pedestrians than the current situation. Between St. Clair and 11th St., there is one way for pedestrians to cross DMLK Jr., and that's the crazy, winding, raised pedestrian plaza. On top of that, this design is extremely wasteful of land. It exchanges copious amounts of pedestrian-and-environmentally-friendly green space in the Triumph proposal with impassable bi-layer roads.
I sincerely hope this roads proposal isn't inextricably linked to the Circle Truss gateway design. I'm not crazy about the truss, but I can live with it. On the other hand, I'm very much against this roads proposal.
As one final note, I've always wondered why a spur from the I-65 northbound ramp to Missouri St. doesn't exist, something like this:
It would be such a simple thing to do -- it's relatively small and no buildings would need to be acquired (certainly part of this lies within the current I-65 ROW). I'm sure businesses in the area, particularly Clarian, would be very supportive of something like this as it would greatly improve transportation through the Biocrossroads area. Any opportunity to improve connectivity across urban expressways should be embraced, especially one that would be as simple to implement as this.