Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Michigan Road & Interstate 465

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Recently driving through this interchange a couple times during the morning and afternoon peak periods raised a few questions for me. In the afternoons, it appears commonplace for traffic exiting from Eastbound I-465 to Michigan Road to back up quite some distance onto the mainline of I-465. Traffic sailing by at the speed limit in the left and center lanes, with traffic at a standstill, or stop and go in the right lane doesn't seem very safe, considering there will always be those drivers that need to exit, but don't realize, or don't care that they need to get to the right lane sooner. There's also those drivers unwittingly in the stopped right lane that don't wish to exit. These drivers will often attempt to move to the center lane to bypass the stop and go traffic, which also presents safety concerns.

Considering that Michigan Road was widened and the exit ramps rebuilt in the past couple years, couldn't this problem have been avoided? One solution would be a wider (more lanes) and longer (more lanes sooner with a longer queue area) exit ramp.

But I wonder if this problem highlights a bigger problem with Central Indiana freeway/expressways, that being the relative sparsity of interchanges. Consider, for drivers traveling east on I-465, the next exit after Michigan Road is Meridian Street, which is identified as being five miles away. For traffic that has traveled east on I-865 from southbound I-65, Michigan Road is the first exit after Zionsville (SR 334?), a distance of what, eight miles? Is there just too much traffic being funneled through this interchange?

Does INDOT have plans to add an interchange between Michigan and Meridian, at say Township Line Road or Ditch Road?

How about an interchange somewhere on I-865 (the "dogleg")?

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I suspect that folks in that area (Traders Point vicinity) might wish to preserve the ultra low-density, rural character of the area, but if subdivisions continue to develop west of Michigan Road and north and south of I-865, I would think that another interchange would be inevitable. I'm all for channeling growth toward existing infrastructure and preserving the development pattern of truly unique and historic rural areas, but that infrastructure has to be able to safely accommodate it. With virtually zero public transportation in this area, I doubt that the existing automobile infrastructure will keep pace with demand, as the backups at the Michigan Road interchange demonstrate.

Since I mentioned public transportation, let's shift gears from the Interstate down to the surface street. What is one to infer from the fact that the complete rebuilding and widening of Michigan Road from 86th to 96th Street did not include sidewalks, but yet the portion of the project north of 96th Street (Hamilton County) included sidewalks on both sides of the street? Michigan Road south of I-465 is not a state road and is wholly under the control of the City of Indianapolis - Marion County. North of I-465, this is U.S. 421, which although named a U.S. Highway, is under the authority of INDOT.

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There is very limited bus service on IndyGo Route 34 on Michigan Road from 86th Street to 96th Street. There is no bus service north of 96th Street. Interestingly, or sadly, short "islands" of sidewalk were constructed at some of the intersection corners, but what's the point? They don't allow anyone to walk along Michigan Road and they don't connect to anything east or west of Michigan Road. Since there are pedestrian signals, if you're fleet of foot, I suppose you could exit the bus and cross the street and reboard going back the opposite direction if you were just sightseeing along "Ye Olde Michigan Road".

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But seriously, how does a project like this occur in the 21st century in an urbanized area, where millions of dollars are being spent annually creating "pedestrian plans", "multi-modal design guidelines" and "rapid transit studies"?


Anonymous said...

great post. I would love to follow you on twitter.

Anonymous said...

Who manages the 465 and Michigan Road interchange? Marion County? The state? Indianapolis?