September 30, 2007—Paraphrased Article from Indianapolis Star
By: Chris Sikich
Once a two-lane country road that dead-ended in Carmel, 146th Street officially will be extended east from Cumberland Road to I-69's Exit 10 on Monday, a key step toward connecting I-69 and I-65, and Hamilton and Boone counties.
The four-mile, $53 million extension of 146th Street also is expected to convert the farmland lining it into a major commercial corridor.
"It really signifies that everything is now in place to support a lot of growth and development that Noblesville and Fishers have planned in and around Exit 10," said Jeff Burt, president of the Hamilton County Alliance, a countywide economic development organization.
Sprouting up are these major developments: Hamilton Town Center, a 950,000-square-foot mall owned by Simon Property Group and Gershman Brown & Associates.
The 750-acre Saxony project, a mix of homes and commercial development on both sides of the interstate, part in Noblesville and part in Fishers.
Saxony in Fishers will be the site of health centers run by Clarian Health Partners and Community Health Network and are adjacent to a project by St. Vincent Health.
Noblesville Corporate Campus, a 4,550-acre development the city has earmarked for commercial, corporate and residential growth from Ind. 37 east to the Madison County line. The portion of Saxony within Noblesville is in the corporate campus.
The New 86th Street
Now, the 17-mile 146th Street stretch will link communities in Hamilton County much the same way the 86th Street expansion did in northern Indianapolis decades ago -- connecting residents of Lawrence, Washington and Pike townships along what is now a major commercial corridor.
Workers and shoppers cross municipal and county boundaries, he said, and it doesn't matter which side of 96th Street -- the Marion-Hamilton County line -- you live on.
Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, says it's natural for growth to spread from Indianapolis, but he wishes developers and governments would look at redeveloping property before planting buildings instead of crops in farm fields.
As growth moves farther out, he said, older suburbs and commercial areas, such as Lafayette Square on Indianapolis' Northwest side, suffer.
"We should be revisiting and re-engineering existing communities and neighborhoods so they work and they are good places to live and so they have good schools," he said.
Family Farms Give Way
Life along the 146th Street extension already has changed dramatically.
Many family farms have been sold as developments begin to arrive. Most of the land that touches the new corridor is either owned or under option by investment and development groups, according to county attorney Mike Howard, who says he has heard that land could go from $80,000 to $85,000 an acre.
"I'm sure 146th Street at least doubled the value of every square foot of land that it touched," Howard said.
Jay and Martha Reynolds sold their 133-acre farm near Promise Road and 146th Street, and relative Joe Reynolds, who owned an adjacent farm, has talked to developers to sell the last 101 acres of his former 393-acre farm.
Some are Counting Benefits
The improved connection to I-69 will be a boon for businesses that need quick access to interstates, and for residents who may see lower property tax bills and a speedier commute.
Ben Bontrager, Noblesville's assistant economic development director, said 146th Street will help fill the city's corporate campus with commercial growth, meaning more businesses will share in the property tax burden now borne largely by homeowners.
The company plans to eventually bring 775 jobs to the corporate campus.
Aside from development, 146th Street will ease some commuters' journeys.
Sean Olssen, Carmel, said the road will be much better than his current route on 116th Street -- through a bevy of traffic lights -- on his way to Exit 5 in Fishers.
"That will be a big advantage," he said. "I'll take 146th Street to the interstate to get to Muncie and Fort Wayne."
While 146th Street is four lanes with a center median/turning lane east through Spring Mill Road, it shrinks to a two-lane road near the western edge of Hamilton County.
On the Hamilton County side, officials plan to widen the road to four lanes from Spring Mill Road to the Hamilton-Boone line.
Boone County's plans are less ambitious, but a four-lane route from I-69 to Michigan Road is a possibility.
Tom Kouns, Boone County's highway supervisor, said plans there call for a $3.4 million project in 2008 to widen the road to three lanes (two with a center turning lane/median) from the county line to U.S. 421 (Michigan Road).
On the other side of Michigan Road, Boone County is looking at developing a narrower three-lane route to I-65, bypassing Whitestown to the south and serving the 1,700-acre Anson commercial and residential development along Ind. 334.
Funding has not been secured, and a specific route to the south from County Road 300 South to County Road 400 South has not been determined.
Full Speed Ahead
The existing section of 146th Street is among the most heavily traveled east-west routes in Hamilton County, with up to 34,500 drivers a day, according to 2006 traffic reports.
That's why Hamilton County Commissioner Steve Dillinger said it's imperative that the road remain a thoroughfare without frequent stoplights.