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State Road 37 project to (finally) break ground

It seems that on Sept 9th the State Road 37 project that dominated the 2016 Commissioners’ GOP primary race will finally get underway with a groundbreaking ceremony at 126th and ST RD 37.

Aside from my personal interest in this project the reason for writing this blog post is I remain convinced there is no way this project will come in anywhere near budget and will end up costing the taxpayers much more than originally budgeted.

A quick review is in order. Back on December of 2015, then Governor Pence came to Fishers and held a public event informing us he was “instructing” the State to contribute $100 million dollars towards an upgrade on State Road 37. What most of the public isn’t aware of is that he did this because his polling numbers (driven down dramatically by the #RFRA kerfuffle) were in the tank and he desperately needed HamCo in order to win reelection in 2016. Commissioner Heirbrandt and Fishers City Councilor Pete Peterson (temporarily HamCo GOP party chair at the time) somehow convinced the Gov that this "investment" would help deliver HamCo which was necessary to ensure his reelection. Now to be fair, the project had been discussed for many months, what was missing was the funding component. Pence’s political problems became the impetus to launch it.

What became pretty obvious to any casual observer is the commissioner and the city councilor had also worked out how the county and the City of Fishers would help fund this project before it was even announced. The only wild card was the county council was not under their control and my primary challenge threw a monkey wrench into the equation. In the end, an agreement to set up a $500 k “marketing fund” ( Thrive 37) was reached and the county council voted to spend $12 million on the project to be matched by the City of Fishers ( immediately authorized at next meeting after the Governors’ announcement)

141st rendering

So here we are in late August of 2019 and most of the public has forgotten what transpired and for sure are not aware of what is coming. I have been “warned” that the project is already near $20 million over budget and there is talk of eliminating the 141st overpass (no irony the one where my old business was located and the one in the image attached to this blog).

When I asked a trusted Fishers City Councilor about it, it took him nearly two weeks to garner this reply: “The City, County and INDOT are continuously reevaluating the SR 37 Corridor Improvement project. As part of the on-going reevaluations, safety, quality and being fiscally responsible are always at the top of the priority list. The change in the draining outlet location, from 141st to now along 146th, is proof that the ability for the project to pivot on the direction it is headed. As part of our on-going public outreach, we have been working to minimize the impacts to the traveling public and local business owners. As part of those discussions, we consistently reevaluate the intersections both along the corridor and that are adjacent to the corridor.”

I suspect we all interpret that reply differently , but what I read is it is possible we will not build all the intersections because coming back to the county council for more money is a risky proposition.

Since this is expected to be a three-year project let me just say that we can come back and review that statement if I am proven wrong in the future.

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