I-Team 8

New proposal would take I-65/70 underground, rid inequality barrier

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new proposal by the Indy Chamber of Commerce and the Rethink Coalition for Interstates 65 and 70 show the groups’ vision to take the elevated sections of the highway and put them underground.

“A highway is not just a highway when it’s in an urban center,” Rethink Coalition President and CEO Brenda Freije said. “It impacts our health and our well-being and the way we live and we have the opportunity now to think about it.”

Freije tells I-Team 8 the interstate is one of the biggest barriers for communities of color to get access to resources downtown. She says their latest proposal will lessen the gap between neighborhoods. Freije says when the interstate was first built in the 1950s, it displaced over 17,000 people, a majority of which were majority people of color.

“This kind of an opportunity just doesn’t come up that often. It hasn’t come up for about 50-some years,” Freije said.

Taylor Hughes, director of strategy and special projects at the Indy Chamber of Commerce, says the project will cost about $2.8 billion. However, he says the long-term impact outweighs the short-term cost.

“It’s about a $500 million difference [compared to crews just redoing the interstate as is] over about a period of 10 or maybe even 15 years,” Hughes said. “It [will] free up 68 acres of land in downtown Indianapolis and create the opportunity for maybe $66 million in annual tax revenue.”

The Indy Chamber of Commerce says the project would create 24,000 new jobs and stays in line with President Biden’s new infrastructure bill.

“The bipartisan infrastructure bill actually includes language that specifically addresses projects like this and provides funding for engineering studies,” Hughes said.

The plan has not been engineered just yet, but Rethink Coalition and the Indy Chamber of Commerce say they will be looking to gain community support over the next few years, with the hopes the Indiana Department of Transportation would take it on.

“Now we get to design what we want and to envision the future and move into that future,” Freije said.

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