Ramp repair to bring snarls

Here we go again: Commuters heading to downtown Indianapolis will face more orange barrels and detours this summer.

If you commute into downtown and use Interstate 70 exits to get into the city, you’ll likely need to find a new route. The state will close the ramp from northbound Interstate 65 to westbound I-70 from Memorial Day through July. The $3.44 million project will rebuild the concrete bridge surface, replace corroded pins holding together joints and repair bridge supports.

The 40-year-old bridges need to be modernized to handle the nearly 14,000 vehicles that use the ramp daily, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Nathan Riggs said.

The good news is the project shouldn’t affect traffic nearly as much as last year’s downtown interstate repairs, which closed all lanes of I-65 and I-70 between the north and south splits, Riggs said.

You’ll still be able to hop on I-70 east for your commute back to Johnson County at the end of the day. Exits off I-65, such as Raymond Street or Washington Street, will be open, although traffic might be heavier at those exits, Riggs said.

The closure likely will affect only commuters from I-65 who use I-70 to get to downtown, Riggs said. More than half of Johnson County’s workers, about 30,000 people, commute to Marion County daily.

“A lot of the traffic that does use this ramp are commuters coming into the city from the southside, and a lot of that will be in the morning,” Riggs said.

The I-70 ramp will be closed from where it separates at the south split to the East Street bridge. So the closure won’t affect drivers who are leaving downtown and use Madison Avenue or West Street to get on I-70 and head west out of the city, Riggs said.

The closure also won’t affect anyone who continues north on I-65, aside from some additional traffic from I-70 travelers who are now looking for a different exit, Riggs said.

“A lot of traffic will be absorbed by other exits, such as Raymond, Washington and Morris. There are other options. That’s why we want to let people know what’s going to be closed and what will remain open,” Riggs said.

The state considered keeping one lane open on the I-70 ramp during construction, but doing so likely would create backups on I-65 and significantly increase the amount of time needed for the project. The total closure will allow Milestone Contractors to make the repairs more quickly, Riggs said.