The final major piece of the Keystone Parkway interchange project is now in place.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, city officials and contractors celebrated the substantial completion of the 96th Street and Keystone Parkway interchange with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 30 at Tom Wood Ford, 3130 E 96th St. It had opened two days prior.
Brainard said it is one of the busiest intersections in Indiana and previously was one of the most dangerous.
“It will tremendously speed up traffic in this area,” Brainard said. “Having this corridor flow better without a series of stop lights is going to be a huge improvement for people coming into Carmel for the day as well as for people going north to south.”
In 2016, Carmel embarked on a $28.7 million project to improve the safety and mobility at the previously signalized intersection. Preconstruction and utility relocations began in 2018, with most of the construction happening in 2019.
Following the winter months, crews will return to finish the final layer of asphalt, permanent pavement markings, landscape features and painting of the bridge structure.
“What has been created here today is a great thing for workforce, a great thing for residents and a great opportunity in regards to infrastructure,” OneZone Chief Operating Officer Jack Russell said.
Despite losing part of its land and dealing with construction nearby, Tom Wood Ford General Manager Mark Hume said Tom Wood officials knew the project would be best for the city.
“Traveling east to west and west to east is so much better now,” Hume said.
CHA Consulting was the lead designer.
The Keystone project started in 2007 with roundabout interchanges at 126th and 106th streets completed first.
“It was extremely dangerous because of the mix of stopped and slow traffic and high-speed traffic,” Brainard said of Keystone. “But it took a long time to go east to west.”
As Carmel’s population grew, Brainard said the state of Indiana wanted to widen the road and add another lane in each direction.
“That would have brought up to eight lanes in some areas and in other areas six (lanes),” Brainard said. “We knew that would not be good for residential neighborhoods around. We proposed something different that was based on the idea that there are two ways to handle congestion. One is to add more lanes. My theory is that it is just adding additional parking spaces to get to the green light. If we improve ways to get to the intersection quickly, we don’t have to add lanes. We needed to make the intersections work better and more safely.”
Brainard said the city proposed ramp controlled roundabouts, but he said the Indiana Dept. of Transportation rejected the idea several times. Then-Gov. Mitch Daniels liked the idea, however, and told INDOT to proceed with it.
Carmel received $80 million from the state to deed over the roadway. The state later gave an additional $10 million to help with the project.
“The number of serious crashes has gone down,” Brainard said. “I don’t think we’ve had a fatality at the intersections since the project started. Traffic no longer sits. That’s better for our environment. We no longer have the pollution. There is a free flow of traffic.”