South split project forces thousands to choose new route
On Labor Day, traffic moved normally along one of the area's busiest highways, but just after midnight, orange barrels came out, blocking access to two major interstate highways, and clearing the way for crews to begin to fix the I-65/I-70 split.
At midnight on Tuesday, the barricades started going up, closing off I-65 and I-70 from the north split to the south split. The barricades will remain up until contractors complete their work, which should take 59 days or less.
The project is supposed to provide the solution to dozens of semi trailers that hit bridges in the area - most often the Virginia Avenue bridge. INDOT says the collisions are typically the driver's fault for trying to pass an oversize load in the wrong place.
But the scrapes and bumps have created a serious hazard of flying debris, costly repairs and unexpected interstate shut-downs. The idea is to fix the problem now once and for all by digging out and lowering the roadway under all bridges between the splits.
The simple detour for through traffic is to bypass downtown entirely and circle around on I-465.
If you need to take I-65 or I-70 to downtown, the only surface street ramps that are closed are at Washington and East Street - within the split. You can still take I-65 north to I-70 west, and I-65 south to I-70 east.
"We ride it everyday," one driver told us with her school-aged kids onboard. She figures the resulting road closures will add 5 to 10 minutes to her daily trip.
"Take a lot more time to get home," another motorist told us. "Probably another 15 to 20 minutes at least."
We compared running times. If you're going from 11th and Meridian to the University of Indianapolis, the drive south on I-65 through the split to the south Keystone ramp takes about eight minutes.
But when we drove an alternate route - I-70 east to Rural, then south through the city to the S. Keystone on-ramp - it took us almost three times as long.
Kolin Brown, who works at the airport, agreed there would be an impact. "Probably 20 to 25 minutes more," Brown says of his daily commute.
If you take I-70 from the east side for the airport, it takes a little more than 5 minutes via the split to get to West St. But with the split closed, if you drive West St. all the way through town, you meet up with I-70 - after a trip that's about 4 minutes longer. Keep in mind, our tests were done in light holiday traffic. Your times may vary.
"I'm gonna work it out tonight before the morning," a motorcyclist told us.