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I-65 and I-70 downtown rebuild option proposes going underground

An analysis found the cost of the recessed option would be about $2.8 billion compared to the "as is" rebuild at $2.3 billion.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indy Chamber and Rethink Coalition, Inc. released findings of a study on rebuilding I-65 and I-70 through downtown Indianapolis.

The "inner loop" as it is called was built 45 years ago and needs some serious upgrades for current traffic conditions.

A study looked at rebuilding the highways as is, or looking at a "recessed" option that takes the interstate underground. An analysis found the cost of the recessed option would be about $2.8 billion compared to the "as is" rebuild at $2.3 billion.

The recessed option though would "reduce the physical footprint, reconnect downtown neighborhoods, and create development opportunities." It would also reclaim 45 acres of land within the current interstate right-of-way and create up to 23 acres of additional new land by "capping" over the recessed system — creating the potential for new development, parks, or other uses.

“That’s maybe $2 billion in real estate development that could come, up to like $66 million in annual tax revenue for the city of Indianapolis,” said Taylor Hughes, Director of Strategy, Policy and Special Projects for the Indy Chamber. “And what we also know is 17,000 people were displaced in the 1950s. We have a chance to rebuild some of those neighborhoods to double down on affordable housing, connectivity to job opportunities, engaging the neighbors who live alongside the infrastructure. There’s a ton of opportunities that come with this.”

The construction wouldn't begin until after the upgrades are complete to the $280 million North Split project. Reworking north (I-65), east (I-65/70), and south (I-70) legs of the Inner Loop will take place over 10 to 20 years.

“We’re in that moment in our history when we get to rethink the highways. And in doing that we’re rethinking how infrastructure affects our lives. It’s really true that the things we build end up building us and our lives have now been structured by this loop," said Brenda Freije, President and CEO of Rethink 65-70 Coalition. "We have the chance to rethink it and potentially rebuild it in ways that can give us all kinds of benefits, not just transportation.”

The study found that going with the recessed option would attract $5 in new investment for every dollar in construction costs.

The full Arup report can be read and downloaded at rethink65-70.org.

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