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Motorists call North Split detour’s clog of semis ‘awful,’ ‘excruciatingly painful’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Six blocks of semitractor-trailers are giving everyone headaches downtown after the May 15 shutdown of the North Split interstate interchange.

It’s been almost a month since the traffic configurations changed, and one thing hasn’t changed: a number of 18-wheelers are taking a detour through the streets of Indianapolis.

While trucks and cars are supposed to use the official detour route of I-465, it’s clear many would rather take the local one.

“It’s awful man,” Courtland Gaines said. “It really is awful.”

“It’s excruciatingly painful to try to get through this traffic,” Jessyy Marr added.

In just a few minutes of watching, you’ll see drivers honk, wave their middle fingers and express anger in other ways.

Gaines lives right along the route. He hears the loud engines every day. “All day long.”

While he may have the legal right to cross the south side of East Street with the white pedestrian light in the crosswalk, he refuses to do so. He values his life too much. “I won’t cross this way, at all. I won’t risk it.”

Marr is always working, now as a delivery driver.

“If there’s eight days a week, I’m working,” she said. “I just picked up something on Washington Street and coming to Mass Ave took me 45 minutes.”

It’s costing her the trifecta: more gas, fewer orders and, most importantly, smaller tips.

“Downtown is where I commute the most. It’s where I make the most money. I’m terrified I’m going to get hurt by one of these semis,” Marr said. “They need a different route. They need a different route downtown.”

All nonlocal trucks are supposed to use a different route, but that doesn’t mean they are.

Gaines and Marr aren’t seeing the difference since the North Split first shut down. They also didn’t know the six-block pattern could be the new normal downtown until the end of 2022.

Gaines said, “18 months? This is ridiculous. They’ve got to do something about that.”

Marr said, “Oh, no, you said 18 months? Oh, wow.”

Mallory Duncan, communications director for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said, “We are only a couple weeks out from the closure. We have been reaching out to trucking companies. The word is spreading through different social media posts and as people go through so hopefully that shift will happen in the next few weeks.”

The city’s Department of Public Works declined an interview request Wednesday but released a statement.

“Our traffic engineering team is continuing to monitor new traffic patterns and to work with INDOT on traffic diversions due to the North Split closure. In coordination with INDOT we have made some changes since the initial closure, including to the signage board at College/Washington. I think it remains relevant that INDOT worked with the City to upgrade 500 traffic signals and other infrastructure on local roadways before the closure to both monitor and optimize emerging traffic patterns. While we’ve begun to see traffic settling into a rhythm since the major closure, we still have many months left in the North Split construction timeline, and understanding any extra wear on local roads will better be accomplished further into the closure. We understand that at least 90% of detouring traffic is using I-465 as directed, and that the Interstate detour is estimated only to be adding several minutes on average to motorists’ commute. Compared to trying to navigate local streets downtown, it is absolutely our recommendation that regional traffic continue to following INDOT’s posted detours. We also encourage motorists to pay attention to the closure of local roads by INDOT for the North Split project. Residents can get up-to-date info on those local road closures at northsplit.com.”

Indianapolis Department of Public Works

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