Controlled construction: State Road 37 project proposal emphasizes local supervision
By James Feichtner
Drivers in Ham. Co. who travel from Interstate 69 to Ind. 37 during rush hour might eventually see some relief from the congestion that has plagued the area. On Dec. 10, city officials in Fishers and Hamilton County announced a collaborative mission with the state to fix the Ind. 37 corridor, a project estimated to cost $124 million. The proposal aims to convert several intersections into roundabout overpasses between 126th Street through 146th Street, similar to Carmel’s Keystone Parkway. If approved, the investment would begin in 2018.
“I think this is the largest infrastructure project that the city has seen and will see for a very long time and on one of the most notoriously congested corridors in Fishers and Hamilton County.,” Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness said. “It has divided our community for long enough and it’s time to improve it.”
After conducting a study on Ind. 37, the county and local city governments knew something would eventually have to be done.
“There was study that was initiated by Hamilton County to move forward and explore possible solutions on the corridor. What we found was that several intersections would fail if we did nothing,” Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt said. “It was one of our top priorities in Hamilton County.”
In order to make it work, the county knew they would need full support from local government.
“To do a project of this magnitude, you have to have partners: Scott (Fadness) of the City of Fishers, John Ditslear of Noblesville and Governor Pence,” Heirbrandt said. “We started with (Pence) and he gave us some direction on where we needed to gather some collaboration.”
What’s most unique about the proposal is the control over the corridor that will be relinquished during construction. If approved, the City of Fishers would literally own the area while under construction.
“We brainstormed a solution that allowed local control so that we can be sensitive to the concerns that will obviously come with construction and disruption, so we’re going to have local control during that critical time of construction, but then when it’s done the road will go back to the State of Indiana so the long-term liability ultimately will go back to the state,” Fadness said.
“That is the big difference between this (project) and other projects that have went on is that local control, and that’s what we fought for because we wanted to protect those businesses along that corridor,” Heirbrandt said. “That was why we took the proactive approach.”
Many business owners along the corridor have expressed concern about the impact the project would have on their business, but Heirbrandt says that understanding the proposal will show the benefit having local control.
“If I was a business owner, and I didn’t know anything about this project, I would probably be a bit concerned, but when you get to understand the hurdles that we went through to get local control, I think that (people will) have a better appreciation of what this proposal will bring to the citizens of Hamilton County as well as the business owners,” Heirbrandt said.
Fishers Director of Engineering Jeff Hill added the project would also improve safety within the intersections.
“We want to bring safety back to this corridor,” Hill said. “We see, through congestion and the signals and the unexpected traffic, collisions at these intersections so, with great separation, a lot of that goes away with roundabouts and if there are collisions they’re at much lower speeds with much reduced severity.”
The legal document of the proposal will go before the Fishers City Council Dec. 21. If approved, Fishers will make the first move in preparing for construction. The $124 million would be divided with Fishers and Hamilton Co. paying $12 million and the state paying $100 million.
Fadness said if the project moves forward, it will not only help facilitate traffic, but impact the lives of both Ind. 37 commuters and business owners alike.
“I’m hoping that with this project maybe we give each person that makes that commute 25 minutes every morning and 25 minutes at night to be with their family,” Fadness said. “You give someone 45 minutes of their life back everyday; that’s not insignificant, and I think this project does that, but at the same time, mitigating the impact on local businesses, that we’re going to be able to help with. I’m really excited about the project. I think it’s going to be a big win for Fishers, Hamilton County and Noblesville.”
- Budget: $124 million.
- Government body obligations: Fishers – $12 million, Hamilton County – $12 million State – $100 million.
- Proposed Areas affected: Beginning of Ind. 37 at 126th Street through 146th Street
- Proposed structures: Roundabout overpass
- Duration of Fishers control: 7 years