The City of Carmel recently announced a string of construction projects along 96th Street, with plans to turn several intersections into roundabouts. But now the City of Indianapolis is trying to put a stop to the construction by refusing to sign interlocal agreements.
Indianapolis City-County Councilor Christine Scales, who represents much of the Marion County side of these projects, is objecting to roundabouts at Hazel Dell Parkway, Gray Road, Delegates Row and Randall Drive. She said she supports the roundabout interchange at 96th Street and Keystone Parkway and agreed to go along with a roundabout at Priority Way as part of a deal. She said she had been given reassurances from the City of Carmel that the other roundabouts east of Priority Way would not be constructed. It was not put into writing and Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said there was no such deal.
Scales said she fears the 96th Street roundabouts will harm businesses during construction closures and because faster traffic doesn’t give motorists time to look around and discover new places.
“My concern is protecting the businesses on the southern side of 96th Street, and they tell me they don’t support these roundabouts,” she said.
Brainard said he hasn’t heard from businesses opposing the roundabouts and he noted that several major car dealerships, including Tom Wood along 96th Street, are supporting the plan.
“There are so many businesses in that area that there might be one or two that oppose it, but the vast majority support these roundabouts,” Brainard said. “Traffic has gotten so bad in this area that some businesses have considered fleeing this area because customers are starting to avoid the traffic.”
Brainard noted that the City of Carmel has held meetings with business owners in the area but Scales has not attended these meetings. He said the construction plans were explained at these meetings and as a result most are on board.
Scales said Carmel can’t proceed without the interlocal agreement because it would be violating state law. She said a lawsuit against Carmel could be filed if Carmel tried to proceed, which Brainard said he would do.
“It would be costly for Indianapolis and costly for Carmel,” Scales said. “We would like to avoid it.”
Brainard said that Carmel is funding all of these projects and bearing all of the responsibility for maintaining them. He said construction won’t be delayed and if possible the roundabouts could move a few feet north, out of Indianapolis, but he doesn’t see that as likely. In the meantime, Brainard said he’d like to provide evidence to Scales to show her that businesses support these changes, that traffic will flow freely and public safety will improve. He said she won’t take his calls anymore.
Scales said she isn’t likely to negotiate with Carmel and the only thing that will change her mind is if local business owners change their minds.
“I am not willing to negotiate with someone who has already backed out of a deal,” she said. “I can’t trust them because they already assured me that these roundabouts wouldn’t be constructed, and now there’s a press release sent out anyway.”