Saturday, June 15, 2024

Westfield unveils 8-year, $186M infrastructure plan – Inside INdiana Business

Must read

Listen to this story

Loading audio file, please wait.

  • 0.25
  • 0.50
  • 0.75
  • 1.00
  • 1.25
  • 1.50
  • 1.75
  • 2.00

Westfield is planning to build a $9.9 million underpass on the Monon Trail at East 161st Street because of concerns for pedestrian safety at the busy intersection. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Westfield is a rapidly growing city, but much of its infrastructure is stuck in the past.

What used to be country roads are now major thoroughfares in a city that has grown from 21,000 people in 2008 to more than 54,000.

So the city’s planners compiled a list of 52 projects they hope to complete in the next eight years at an estimated cost of $186 million.

That represents $125 million in road improvements, $31 million in new roundabouts, $16.7 million in trail projects and $12.5 million in park projects. Half the projects have fundings allocated; the city is studying how to fund the other half.

The first 26 projects are at least in the design stage and involve 13 road projects, four parks, three roundabouts, three trails and three miscellaneous projects.

To pay for those projects, which are on schedule to be completed by 2026, Westfield will use cash from its general fund, a motor vehicle fund, local roads and streets funds, park impact fees, road impact fees, and general obligation bonds.

The 26 unfunded projects comprise 15 road projects, 10 roundabouts and one trail project. A preliminary timeline for those projects shows construction taking place from 2025 to 2032.

The city will apply for grants and look for cost-sharing opportunities with neighboring cities and Hamilton County for some projects, such as a roundabout at East 161st Street and Gray Road that is scheduled for 2031 and could involve Westfield, Noblesville and the county.

Westfield Mayor Scott Willis told IBJ that previous city leaders took a conservative approach to infrastructure, so the city has a lot of catching up to do.

“I think it’s absolutely critical as we try to lure in new businesses into our community,” Willis said. “Infrastructure matters. I think Carmel has shown a good blueprint for that and how much a community with great infrastructure can lure in good, quality businesses.”

Some of Westfield’s busiest corridors are State Road 32 (with up to 18,000 cars a day), East 161st Street west of U.S. 31 (about 14,000 cars a day), East 191st Street near Grand Park Sports Campus (13,000 cars a day), and the intersection of East 181st Street and Wheeler Road (8,000 to 10,000 cars a day). Each area is set to receive attention over the next eight years.

City Engineer Michael Pearce told IBJ his department sat down with Willis’ administration and the Department of Public Works earlier this year to discuss which projects to prioritize and to make sure everybody was on the same page.

“These are our projects that are within developed areas of Westfield,” Pearce said. “So, it’s really making sure that we address some of the issues that we see within the area of town that’s already developed and make sure traffic can flow and everyone’s safe within those areas.”

Public Works Director Johnathon Nail told the Westfield City Council last month that the list of 52 projects is a “living document.”

“This is not set in stone, so as we get [real] costs for projects, we’ll update this plan in real time,” Nail said. “And, you know, priorities can change. We’re looking out eight years in the future doing our best to make assumptions and predictions. As things change, the plan will change, as well.”

City Council member Victor McCarty said future developments should include corresponding infrastructure plans.

“We’ve had so many developments over the last five to 15 years that didn’t necessarily have an infrastructure plan tied to [them],” said McCarty, who represents residents on the city’s west side. “So, when new things come about, we definitely want to make sure we’re planning accordingly.”

Upgrades to recreation

Westfield is poised to build an underpass that will allow Monon Trail users to cross under the busy East 161st Street. Former Mayor Andy Cook’s administration looked to build a tunnel in 2019 costing $6 million after a motorist struck and injured a pedestrian at the intersection.

However, three years ago, former members of the Westfield City Council voted to pause the tunnel project. It finally received the go-ahead this year to proceed.

Indianapolis-based United Consulting Engineers will design and plan the $9.9 million tunnel. Pearce said the city will work this summer with Citizens Energy to move a large water main before construction begins next year.

“That intersection, specifically, just due to the sightline issues and things like that—that’s what moves that high on the priority list,” he said. “But obviously, all the other crossings are things that we need to look at as those [traffic] numbers go up.”

At peak times on weekends, the Monon Trail in Westfield has about 200 pedestrians per hour.

A signalized crosswalk allows pedestrians to push a button to activate stop signals, alerting motorists to people crossing 161st Street. It became operational in August 2021.

The Monon Trail in Westfield covers 7.9 miles, from 146th Street to 216th Street. It connects to the Midland Trace Trail, Anna Kendall Trail, Little Eagle Creek Trail and Cool Creek Trail.

Among future projects is a $5.5 million pedestrian bridge to lift the Monon Trail above East 191st Street.

“[We’re] addressing safety before safety problems really present themselves,” Nail told City Council members. “We want to try and be proactive when it comes to safety in Westfield.”

The city is also planning park projects and improvements over the next eight years, highlighted by a $7.7 million expansion of Simon Moon Park. The park at 3044 E. 171st St. will be expanded from 5.8 acres to 25.3 acres when the two-phase project is complete.

First-phase upgrades began in April and will include a parking lot expansion, fishing piers, boardwalks, a bridge and a reengineered sledding hill. Plans for the second phase include a new playground, an outdoor education classroom and an additional shelter. A timeline for the second phase has not been set.

The north side of the park will be recast as a nature preserve and include a connection to the Midland Trace Trail. Today, the park features restrooms, a shelter house, a playground and a sledding hill.

Improving traffic

Nobody will ever confuse Westfield with Carmel when it comes to roundabouts, but Westfield has constructed 17 since 2001, according to its website.

If plans come to fruition, Westfield will add 14 more by 2032, ranging in cost from $1.2 million at East 169th Street and Carey Road to $4.25 million at East 161st Street and Gray Road.

Three roundabouts are currently funded, at East 151st Street and Towne Road ($2.5 million), East 161st Street and Spring Mill Road ($2.6 million), and East 181st Street and Wheeler Road ($2.3 million).

The roundabout at 181st and Wheeler is one of the most crucial on the city’s list, according to Pearce, because of its proximity to Grand Park Sports Campus. Construction is expected to begin when the 2024-2025 school year ends.

“That will really help traffic flow in that area, because that’s one where we see a significant amount of congestion, especially during large events at Grand Park,” Pearce said.

Improving traffic near Grand Park is a major goal for Westfield over the next eight years. Last year, the campus attracted 3.8 million visits, 1.2 million visitors and 211,578 athletes, according to the city. However, many roads around Grand Park remain two-lane.

Next year, Westfield and the Hamilton County Highway Department will split costs on a $10.5 million project to widen East 191st Street to four lanes from Tomlinson Road to Grand Park Boulevard. In 2026, the city plans to extend the widening to Spring Mill Road and convert Spring Mill Road to four lanes north to East 193rd Street.

The total projected cost for both phases of the street-widening project is $26 million, including about $1.5 million in engineering costs for both phases; the city is looking for funding sources.

“That’s a big project for us that we see being a really good improvement in the Grand Park area,” Pearce said.

Westfield and the Indiana Department of Transportation are teaming on a $21.7 million reconstruction of S.R. 32 through downtown to improve traffic flow—a project that has been on the books since 2018 when the cost estimate was $15 million.

The city and state are splitting the cost. Westfield has control over project design, while INDOT is paying for land acquisition, utility relocation and construction. Major construction to expand S.R. 32 from two lanes to four from Poplar Street to Timberbrook Run will begin next year.

The project also includes a roundabout at the intersection of S.R. 32 and East Street, along with improved sidewalks, crosswalks and signage.

INDOT is overseeing the $80 million project that will widen the road to four lanes and build seven roundabouts for five miles between Westfield and Noblesville.

Story Continues Below

Latest article