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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Indianapolis fixing the roads cautiously traveled

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The good news: The city will spend $25 million to fix roughly 60 miles worth of residential streets throughout Marion County. Mayor Joe Hogsett announced the plans at a press conference May 13.

The bad news is if approved, construction won’t begin until spring 2022.

Dan Parker, director of the Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW), said the project won’t be “just throwing asphalt” on top of potholes. Instead, DPW, which will oversee the project, will focus on road reconstruction, not just repaving. Some of the roads haven’t been touched in over 40 years.

Indianapolis roads deemed to be in the poorest conditions will be prioritized in the project. DPW will use the Pavement Condition Index, which spans from 0-100, to determine what roads need the most reconstruction. Roads rated between 0-15 will be repaired, and Hogsett said there are roughly 600 miles of Indianapolis roads that fall between that range. According to Parker, the funding will allow DPW to fix 10% of those roads.

“Every year, the Department of Public Works takes aim at our most traveled thoroughfares, stretching a limited budget to cover repairs and rehabilitation of those main roads that are in most desperate need of improvement,” Hogsett said at the press conference at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. “Now we can bring more road crews into those less-traveled roadways right outside residents’ front doors.”

The project is the second phase of the Circle City Forward initiative, which began in February to address infrastructure needs in the community. The budget is about 50% more than DPW has had to spend on residential streets in the previous five years.

The money comes from a surplus in the city budget and must be approved by the city-county council before the project can move forward. The city-county council will vote at 5:30 p.m. May 13.

While DPW examines every road in the city every few years, a limited budget often means the department has to prioritize fixing main roads. According to city-county council President Vop Osili, this leaves many neighborhoods, especially in low-income communities, behind.

Osili said council leadership made equity a priority when deciding what roads will be fixed and said listening to constituents played a large role in funding decisions.

“Our neighborhoods have been asking for these projects, and we are proud to deliver them better infrastructure for the future,” Osili said.

Ashley Gurvitz, chief executive officer for the Alliance for Northeast Unification, said this is a step in the right director for many communities which have been largely overlooked.

“I think this is another example of leaders and residents working together to make a plan and make communities better for everyone,” Gurvitz said. “Neighborhood residents have worked together to make a plan, and worked together to be listened to, and that leads to liberation.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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