Carmel, Indianapolis still at odds over 96th St. roundabouts
The Carmel City Council approved an interlocal agreement March 20 with Indianapolis to allow roundabout construction along 96th Street between Haverstick Road and Priority Way. This doesn’t include four roundabouts to the east that Carmel wants to build at Hazel Dell Parkway, Gray Road, Delegates Row and Randall Drive.
Indianapolis City County Councilor Christine Scales opposes those projects and won’t sign off on their construction, even though the City of Carmel would pay for 100 percent of the cost.
A meeting for business owners along 96th Street, affected residents and others who would like to attend will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 28 at Carmel City Hall to talk about the 96th Street and Keystone Parkway roundabout and other nearby projects.
In a series of e-mails to Current in Carmel, Scales detailed the reasons she is opposed to roundabouts in this corridor.
SAFETY — Scales dismisses the claim that roundabouts are safer because they reduce the likelihood of a head-on collision.
“Contrary to Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard’s assertions, personal injury and property damage accidents have not been reduced since the advent of Carmel’s roundabout construction,” she said. “The 2011 and 2015 Carmel Police Dept.’s annual reports instead show increases in these kinds of accidents.”
Brainard responded that her numbers are inaccurate. He acknowledged that the overall number of accidents have increased, but that’s because the city annexed Southwest Clay during that time, adding many residents. He also said that most roundabout accidents are side-swipes that cause superficial damage as opposed to more serious accidents that more often occur in intersections.
“The number of accidents as well as the severity is way down per thousand cars,” he said. “Carmel no longer needs a dedicated jaws of life crew, saving millions per year. The chance of an accident has gone down from one percent to about six tenths of one percent. Overall accidents are up, but the accident rate has declined.”
EFFECT ON BUSINESSES — City Councilor Bruce Kimball told Scales about the new pedestrian and bike paths that will be constructed along 96th Street that will attract customers and be beneficial for economic development. Scales took issue with the path being located on the north side and not the south.
“Looking at the schematics of Carmel’s planned roundabout placement on east 96th Street, it is not Carmel businesses whose properties will be most impacted by the planned roundabouts, but Indy’s,” she said.
Scales claims that Scotty’s Brewhouse will lose up to 16 parking spaces and that HH Gregg will see a roundabout encroach on its land almost to the front door. She said she wouldn’t be surprised to find that Carmel had a new location for these businesses in its city limits.
Brainard said roundabouts have been proven to boost economic activity in a corridor because traffic jams cause customers to avoid a part of town. He also said that an aesthetically pleasing drive — as opposed to hanging wires from traffic lights — helps beautify an area and add value to each business’s property.
TRUCKS — Scales mentions that several large trucks travel 96th Street to car dealerships or HH Gregg. She said roundabouts are difficult to navigate for these large vehicles.
“I have heard from numerous companies whose large trucks deliver goods to Carmel,” she said. “They use software while driving in Carmel that steers them clear of roundabouts, even if it forces them miles out of their way.”
Brainard said it’s not that hard and that Carmel passed a law that allows trucks to use both lanes when navigating a roundabout. The Indiana General Assembly is considering adopting this as a statewide law, which Brainard said is likely to pass.
A DEAL? — Scales claims that she agreed to a few roundabouts between Haverstick and Priority Way as a compromise and she was assured that these other roundabouts to the east would not be constructed.
“I believe Mayor Brainard should show that he is a man of his word and fulfill the commitment he made,” she said.
Brainard disagrees with her assertion.
“I have had one meeting with Christine Scales with staff and there was no agreement, promise or statement whatsoever in that meeting of not pursuing additional roundabouts,” Brainard said. “Several staff members were in that meeting as well as another Indianapolis city councilor. Councilor Scales originally claimed that Indianapolis Dept. of Transportation staff told her we weren’t approving more roundabouts on 96th Street and she has now changed her story to say I promised her that. She is simply not telling the truth.”
INTERLOCAL AGREEMENTS — Brainard has said that he will pursue constructing the roundabouts even without support from Scales. Ultimately, Scales isn’t the one with sole authority over approving such interlocal agreements, but the City of Indianapolis has said they will respect her wishes and not sign off since she represents this district.
Scales notes that Brainard sought interlocal agreements in the past even though he now claims he doesn’t need one. She said he’s dutifully followed Indiana code in the past but now he’s interpreting the law in incorrect ways to get his roundabouts constructed.
Brainard notes that although 96th Street is shared by both cities, state law requires that cities on the north side of such common roadways handle all matters of construction, reconstruction, improvements and maintenance.
“The bottom line is that state law requires that Carmel builds, maintains, shovels snow, salts and polices this boundary road at our expense,” he said. “Yet, while offering no funds whatsoever, one Indianapolis councilor is attempting to dictate to the City of Carmel how we improve our traffic flow and safety.”