Indiana State Rep. Robin Shackelford is out to help her constituents. Last week, residents of Autumn Glen were thrilled to learn that their voices had finally been heard. The community, which is located on the city’s far-east side, has been in a five-year process to have a sound barrier constructed. Daily, those who live in the area are subjected to an overwhelming level of noise due to neighboring Interstate 70.
“Why is a sound barrier needed? Just go over to Autumn Glen during rush hour and look for yourself … or should I say, listen for yourself,” Shackleford said in a written statement. “There are times during the day when you cannot hear yourself think or do anything, either outside or indoors. I fail to see why any homeowner should have to tolerate such conditions.”
The issue, according to the representative, goes beyond quality of life. It has a financial implication as well.
“I know people focus on the quality of life, because like residents have shared, you can’t go outside when the noise level is that high. You can’t garden and go talk to each other, so they’re stuck inside,” she said. “If they ever want to resell their home (noise) affects your resale value, especially when you’re that close to the highway and some of their homes back right up against it.”
The process of finding a solution, according to Shackelford, began when members of the neighborhood association reached out to her after having reached out to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), various elected officials and the governor’s office to no avail.
“They didn’t know why they didn’t have the sound barrier. They had been made different promises … they didn’t know exactly what the holdup was,” she said.
Shackelford then looked into the issue and realized that a study had been conducted by INDOT in 2010, a common practice before projects of this magnitude take shape.
The study showed that while the area met the criteria for both cost and sound, the surveys that were sent out to residents to gauge their desire to have such a structure built garnered no response. Without any survey respondents, it is INDOT’s policy to declare the project a no-build.
Upon further investigation, Shackelford realized that the surveys, instead of being sent to actual residents and homeowners, were sent to an assisted-living facility.
Shackelford then asked that INDOT explore the issue further, at which point she was asked to present evidence proving that homeowners lived there in 2010. A couple months after presenting the agency with local government information on property taxes and other indicators of home ownership, she received an email from them saying they had decided not to move forward with the project.
“I told them that it was unacceptable, and I requested a meeting with the commissioner, Brandye Hendrickson. We went through all of the steps and the evidence together,” said Shackelford.
“She understood immediately and was on board, and she said it would be rectified and the right thing would be done … I am thankful that she could see exactly what the right thing was to do.”
Another study is scheduled to take place this year with construction planned for 2018. The structure will span from Grassy Creek to German Church Road and cost an estimated $700,000 to build.
Dorothy Gruenemeyer, who has lived in Autumn Glen for 10 years, said she is thankful for the progress.
“(Shackelford) has been very good, and I consider her an extra-special person. She is out for all of her constituents. I know that for a fact,” she remarked. “As one person said, it’s about time someone listened. That’s pretty much how I feel. It’s time someone listened to our concerns.”
Shackelford, who was first elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 2012, said she sought to align herself with the energy of her constituents.
“If one of my constituents comes to me and they have a problem, especially if it’s a state issue, it’s my responsibility to take a hard look and see what the problem is and how it can be resolved. They were very persistent and diligent, so it’s my responsibility to be persistent and diligent.”
Beyond this effort, Shackelford shared that she has several bills that will be presented in this year’s legislative session that address direct concerns from the community.
This summer, she and members of the clergy and other elected officials held a series of community conversations where residents shared their unfiltered thoughts. Out of those talks came ideas for legislation around greater transparency in policing, food access, second chances for ex-offenders, and help for those living in poverty unable to pay off traffic tickets.
“What I try to do is hear people’s issues and develop legislation around that,” she said, opening a large binder full of notes categorized under labels such as homelessness, health and criminal justice. “People don’t speak in legislative terms. They just share what their issues and concerns are.”