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Transformative highway study gains support from Washington

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — What would downtown Indianapolis look like if you could cover portions of the interstate?

If you could reconnect neighborhoods divided by the interstate, millions of dollars are coming to Indianapolis to find out what it would look like.  

Dan Parker, Chief of Staff for Mayor Joe Hogsett’s office, said, “To see what is achievable and what is deliverable to say reconnect fountain square to fletcher place.”

Rethink 65/70 is a private organization designed to do exactly what its name says, rethink interstates 65/70 through Indianapolis. The group has several projects in the works, but the one getting $2 million from the Biden administration is capping or covering portions of I-65 south of Washington street and an area of I-70 near the Eli Lilly and company headquarters. The covering or capping is essentially building a bridge across vast sections of the interstate — the hope is to revitalize neighborhoods, often of marginalized communities, that were hurt by the original interstate design. 

“It is really looking at the concepts that came from the rethink coalition and really honing them in on areas of the interstate that are already depressed and what we could do to reconnect neighborhoods that were divided when the interstate came through 50 years ago,” Parker said.  

In the fall of 2022, I-Team 8 was told by the president of Rethink 65/70 Brenda Freije.

“You can reconnect boulevards back over the top and you can build what is called caps and stitches — it is pretty common — and you can build parks, and you can have buildings over the highway, and that really brings the neighborhoods back together so they no longer have an elevated highway as a wall, they can just walk across and the bridges themselves become connecting points,” Freije said.

Parker told News 8 that landing this grant required a level of cooperation rarely seen in road projects. Having the support of INDOT could make the difference between a study that collects dust in some office or an actionable project that with concrete and dirt.  

“INDOT was supportive of this grant without their support we would not have received this grant,” Parker said.  

Keep in mind this is a study, and results are not expected for another 15 months or so. Parker says the climate in Washington is favorable for transformative projects like this one, but it could be three years or longer before any dirt is moved.