Indiana DOT Wants to Double Down on 1960s-Era Urban Highway

Indiana DOT wants to widen a highway through historic Indianapolis neighborhoods near downtown. Locals are fighting back. Image: Urban Indy
Indiana DOT wants to widen a highway through historic Indianapolis neighborhoods near downtown. Locals are fighting back. Image: Urban Indy

It’s remarkable how little some American transportation agencies have learned after 60 years of building urban highways. The newest highway project teed up by Indiana DOT is a great example.

A look at what Indiana DOT has proposed for urban Indianapolis neighborhoods. Images: Urban Indy
A rendering of one Indianapolis home with the wider highway Indiana DOT wants to jam through the neighborhood. Images: Urban Indy

INDOT is pushing a $250 million reconstruction and widening for the I-65/I-70 North Split. Eight historic neighborhoods that the interchange cuts through would be affected.

Other than the addition of sound walls, INDOT’s project includes no design elements that take into account the highway’s place in the middle of the city. The widened highway would be even closer to people’s homes.

At Urban Indy, Kevin Kastner says the project would undermine the city’s planned investments in transit and the recent redevelopment of downtown.

Some local leaders, including Indianapolis Mayor Joseph Hogsett, are pushing back.

In a letter to the state, Hogsett wrote:

Peer cities such as Austin and Dallas, Texas, and Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, have established national best practices, devising context-sensitive solutions to urban right-of-way challenges. I would encourage the state to consider at-grade alternatives that would sufficiently move traffic and meet INDOT’s needs while reconnecting our neighborhoods and street grid. Such alternatives may have a residual benefit by potentially opening up valuable state-owned downtown right- of-way for development.

Local architects and planners have another idea. Architect Mark Beebe and Indiana Landmarks President Marsh Davis have proposed two concepts for the highway right-of-way that would open up 10 acres of land for development and help heal some of the wounds the Interstate system inflicted on city neighborhoods when it was constructed in the 1960s and ’70s.

They propose capping the highway with new development, a greenway, and a surface boulevard. Tolling would redirect some traffic to the city’s outer belt, and freeway ramps that have posed big obstacles for local residents would be eliminated.

An alternative proposal for Indianapolis' I-65/I-70 split would create a surface boulevard by lidding the highway and open up 10 acres to development. Image via Urban Indy
An alternative proposal for Indianapolis’s I-65/I-70 split would create a surface boulevard by capping the highway, opening up 10 acres for development. Image via Urban Indy

Beebe told the Indianapolis Star that the state should reconsider the rush to expand the highway and weigh other options — ones that take into consideration broad public interests, not just motor vehicle speeds.

“What’s being proposed is kind of an old mindset, that a car-centric approach is the way of the future, and we know that’s just not true,” he said.

19 thoughts on Indiana DOT Wants to Double Down on 1960s-Era Urban Highway

  1. While the DOT is no doubt looking out for what people want, it is important not to lose sight of long-term impacts.

  2. It is a parody… INDOT didn’t create the image and hasn’t released proposals. That image is from a local neighborhood group

  3. Ken, I guarantee that INDOT has this project designed and planned out. INDOT has probably presented it at public meetings, such as your local MPO or City Council. You can probably do a public records request for the proposed design plan as well. We are fighting an equally if not worse interstate widening project through our urban core here in Tampa ( The project would destroy hundreds of buildings in our historic districts. We also had a local planner design an boulevard alternative for the highway. I applaud my fellow activists in Indy!

  4. Let me fix the headline for you:

    “Indiana DOT adopts realistic approach to transportation.”

  5. The realistic approach would be to remove the blight of the superhighway and restore the pre-existing street grid.

    Economic prosperity would explode.

    Road socialism does not work. It has failed for 60 years.

  6. Destroying the neighborhood is easier with it being mostly minority. This is a cheap convenience for legions of white people with cars. A nuanced solution would be the partially buried idea with the linear park above it. But this does not address the tens of thousands of Hoosiers without cars who need transit. The CSX line east to Muncie and west to Terre Haute via the airport would provide options for all, increase property values, and bring new workers into the labor pool. Sadly, the a couple of pennies on a gallon of gas would be seen as heretical by those who have no understanding of macroeconomics.

  7. Not very realistic. Quite the opposite if YOU lived there. Always easy to throw others under the bus who’d complain endlessly if this were put upon them.

  8. Agreed. Indy is too road dependent for freight and commuters. Milennials love public transit and use it. Indy could be left behind.

  9. Parody implies deliberate exaggeration, which this is most definitely not. The drawing is a to-scale representation of INDOT’s proposed linework prepared by urban design and transportation professionals.

  10. “Realistic” my ass. Eight historic neighborhoods? A motivated citizenry? It’s pretty evident this project saw the least competent legal review ever … if it ever saw one at all. The courts will have a field day with it until some saner governor takes over and kills it dead.

  11. It does Not serve Indianapolis. Why cut through the heart of Indianapolis for the sake of long-distance traffic that could use the I-465 belt around Indianapolis?
    I-65 connects Chicago with Birmingham AL. There are other routes for that traffic – Railroads. CSX has the most direct route between Chicago and Birmingham. Norfolk Southern also serves those two cities. Don’t forget Illinois Central RR also serves Chicago and Birmingham.
    I-70 connects St. Louis with Pittsburgh, which historically were connected by the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the tracks were still there when Conrail operated it. The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, ( also known as the Big Four Railroad ) connected St.Louis with Columbus , stopping in Indianapolis on the way. B&O railroad had a less direct route.
    The maps and the Rights of Way still exist. It would be far better for everyone’s nerves , health , and the environment to tell the shippers to use the Railroads, and Not bulldoze the historic downtown of Indianapolis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Philly Gets a Boost From U.S. DOT to Mend Neighborhoods Split By a Highway

Earlier this year Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said he wants to help repair the damage done to cities by highways. And this week U.S. DOT took some steps to make that happen, announcing the winners of its “Every Place Counts Design Challenge.” The four chosen cities (out of 33 applicants) will get technical assistance from U.S. DOT to tear down or cap highways, or […]

Louisville Doubles Down on Disruptive Downtown Highway

Louisville, Kentucky, is, by all accounts, a city with a lot of potential. An old river city, it has a wealth of beautiful, historic architecture. It’s mid-sized, but large enough to have some good urban amenities. It’s affordable, with a downtown waterfront and some unique cultural charms. As the New York Times said in its […]

Highway Boondoggles: Tampa Bay Express Lanes

In a new report, Highway Boondoggles 2 (the original came out in 2014), U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group teamed up to profile the most wasteful highway projects that state DOTs are building. Streetsblog will be serializing the case studies in the report. Yesterday, we looked at Connecticut’s $11.5 billion I-95 widening. Today, we focus on a proposed $3.3 billion […]

Anthony Foxx Wants to Repair the Damage Done By Urban Highways

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is offering a surprisingly honest appraisal of America’s history of road construction this week, with a high-profile speaking tour that focuses on the damage that highways caused in black urban neighborhoods. Growing up in Charlotte, Foxx’s own street was walled in by highways, he recalled in a speech today at the Center for American Progress. Building big, grade-separated roads through […]