By Adam Aasen
One of Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard’s campaign promises was to turn the intersection at 96 Street and Keystone Avenue into a roundabout interchange.
His opponent, City Council President Rick Sharp, disagreed with Brainard’s plan saying he had no strategy to pay for it and that there might be better solutions to improve traffic rather than just always using roundabouts.
But Brainard won with more than 60 percent of the vote and now he’s eager to proceed with his plan. His office applied for a Tiger Grant before the June 6 deadline to receive $19 million in federal money that would pay for construction costs. The report states the total cost of the smaller version of this project would be more than $30 million. Hamilton County Commissioners voted on May 26 to allocate $2 million in funding for the project and the city of Carmel would plan to spend around $10 million, according to the report.
“We would like to see construction in 2017,” Brainard said. “That would be ideal. I don’t know if we’ll get it going by then.”
Included in the costs would be $7.7 million for right-of-way acquisition, $3.3 million for the bridge, $1 million for utility relocation, more than $17 million for the actual road and other expenses totaling $31.9 million.
Brainard’s idea isn’t to install a simple roundabout, but a teardrop roundabout interchange, similar to 116th and Keystone. North-south Keystone motorists could drive under the bridge and not stop at all at the intersection.
Sharp criticized Brainard for not having a detailed budget before he went on TV news and announced his intention to rebuild the intersection. Months later, Brainard said he doesn’t want to be pinned down on certain costs estimates because the scope of the project could change, but he did provide estimates of $30 million in his Tiger Grant application.
“You have a lot of options,” he said. “Do make other roundabouts at 96th Street that will work better with the roundabout interchange at 96th and Keystone? Do you place it slightly off center which affects which properties you will take? Which properties do you buy and which ones can stay? How large the turning lanes are and how wide? A lot of this affects the price. Right of way affects the price. We have to redo the estimate and after you tie down exactly what the plans say, then you can build a budget around that.”
It’s been suggested years ago in the past that this project could also include adding new roundabouts east and west on 96th Street at Priority Way, Haverstick Road and N. Aronson Road. There’s also a question about whether Bauer Drive West should be extended or connected.
The new $30 million estimate could mean a smaller project than the one suggested years ago. Back in 2010, when the city was applying for a Tiger Grant to try to kick start this roundabout interchange project, the city stated the entire cost for all phases of the project would be $78 million.
Brainard noted that the Tiger Grant would only pay for up to 80 percent of construction cost only, leaving many other expenses.
“It does not pay for construction inspection,” he said. “It does not pay for design. It does not pay for right of way acquisition. Right of way, in our estimates, can be several million dollars. It’s minimal. We’ve cut it down how much private property that would be used.”
The project would reconstruct about 2,800 feet of Keystone Parkway and 1,600 feet of 96th Street.
Once a budget is proposed and funding has been secured, Brainard said the next step would be to come up with a construction strategy that keeps lanes open and minimizes any negative impact on surrounding businesses. He said businesses have already closed due to congestion and he expects to see more if traffic isn’t improved. His report suggests over 15 years this area will grow by 2,190 full-time jobs and 1,100 part-time jobs.
He said the city might use temporary pavement to keep the lanes open, as has been done with U.S. 31.
“What we’ve told the designers is that we can’t close the intersection,” he said. “We have to market the businesses that are there during the process. We have to have construction basically in the travel lands only when construction season has started – March and into November – and get it done as quickly as we can. We absolutely can’t have a complete shutdown of that intersection. Too many cars.”
Brainard emphasized that the intersection is a safety concern in his mind. A 12-minute video produced by Omni Productions for the city of Carmel details how more than 200 auto accidents used to be seen annually in Carmel’s five-mile stretch of Keystone before roundabout interchanges were installed.
Brainard also pointed out that roundabout interchanges take up less land than a giant roundabout and therefore would cost less for land acquisition and would protect private properties in older neighborhoods.
While many might still criticize Brainard’s plan for 96th and Keystone he said the election only reaffirmed his opinion that it was the right thing to do.
“I haven’t yet heard from an everyday citizen that didn’t want to see something done at that intersection,” he said. “People say, ‘Why is it taking so long?’”
BY THE NUMBERS
$31.9 MILLION – total cost of the project
$19 MILLION – requested from USDOT for the project
$10 MILLION – Carmel’s share of the costs
$2 million – Hamilton County Commissioners pledge to the project
$112 MILLION – spent by Carmel on Keystone improvements from 2008 to 2010
80 – roundabouts constructed in Carmel over the last 10 years
220 – crashes at the intersection from January 2012 to December 2014.
Begin with contracts: October 2015
Begin on utilities work: February 2016
Begin on permitting: September 2016
Begin on construction: August 2017
Begin on Keystone/Bridge construction: July 2018
Begin on 96th Street construction: March 2019
End on 96th Street construction: November 2019
Keystone open to traffic: July 2019
Entire project open to traffic: November 2019