Noise barriers the latest debate in ‘North Split’ project

A series of public meetings having been completed, officials of the Indiana Department of Transportation hope to decide by this coming spring if noise barriers will be part of the redesign of the “North Split” of the Downtown interstates.

Four meetings were held, including at the Athenaeum, Firefighters Museum on Mass Ave and McGowan Hall in The Old Northside. At those meetings, members of The North Split Project Team outlined the noise mitigation process, proposed barrier locations and answered resident questions.

Four noise barriers are being proposed:

  • Along westbound I-70, along the edge of the north shoulder from Commerce Avenue to Valley Avenue, near the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood.
  • Along northbound I-65, along the edge of the north shoulder between College Avenue and Alabama Street, next to the Old Northside neighborhood.
  • Along southbound I-65, along the edge of the south shoulder between College Avenue and Alabama Street, next to the Chatham Arch and St. Joseph neighborhoods.
  • Along southbound I-65/westbound I-70, along the edge of the west shoulder between 10th Street and Ohio Street near Massachusetts Avenue and next to the Lockerbie Square neighborhood.

Each noise barrier is analyzed separately and determined to be reasonable and feasible on a case-by-case basis.

Whatever is decided these next few months, however, might not be the final word.

Mallory Duncan, media relations director of INDOT’s Greenfield District, said that, according to INDOT’s noise policy, “A re-evaluation of the noise analysis will occur     during final design. If during final design it has been       determined that conditions have changed such that noise abatement is not feasible and reasonable, the abatement measures might not be provided. The final decision on the installation of any abatement measure(s) will be made upon the completion of the project’s final design and the public involvement processes.”

Per INDOT’s noise policy, “benefited receptors” are sent a survey. They don’t have to be impacted. In addition, businesses that could have their line of sight blocked are also sent a survey. INDOT officials need a greater than 50% return rate on the surveys or a second survey will be required.

Duncan also reported that three teams are in the running to design and build the project.

The final Request for Proposals – a comprehensive contract document consisting in part of partial project design, budget and cost estimates, maintenance of traffic plans and other contractual obligations – has been distributed to the proposer teams. 

Responses are due in spring of 2020, and a preferred proposer team will be selected following a thorough review of each proposal submitted, which is anticipated to be in early summer 2020, Duncan said.

Historic Urban Neighborhoods of Indianapolis – which counts eight of its member neighborhoods as being directly involved in the interstate redesign – has taken a stand against the noise barriers.

“While reduction of noise is paramount with the reconstruction, HUNI opposes such barriers. We strongly support finding other ways to reduce the noise,” HUNI wrote in a letter signed by President Garry Chilluffo and President-elect Glenn Blackwood.

The letter also noted, “We think that we can all agree that this is an opportunity to rectify some of that earlier devastation by the reconstruction of I-65/70 in a way that focuses on reconnecting these neighborhoods in a positive way.

“These sound barriers put us right back to walling in the core of Downtown, one of the main reasons HUNI joined the Rethink Coalition. The walls are aesthetically boring, at best, and provide only a modest improvement on noise reduction (5-7 decibels). We appreciate INDOT’s plan to use new age paving which will dampen the noise considerably. We also encourage seeking ways to reduce the speed and loud truck breaking. Additionally, we are strongly recommending an urban forest of trees. Reduction in sound by trees is debatable, but it certainly creates a more acceptable visual barrier and contributes to carbon reduction and reduces run off over burdening the sewer system.”