Want a Wider 79th Street? Speak Up!

79th at Indian Lake Intersection How many of us feel trapped unnecessarily in traffic on 79th street between Sunnyside and Fall Creek roads? We all know the road should be widened to allow ample room for traffic flow, proper water drainage and adequate shoulders. We need to act NOW if we care about our safety and the value of our homes in the neighborhoods surrounding this dangerous thoroughfare in Geist.

As some of you already know, back in April 2003, a meeting was held to introduce a project to widen 79th from Fall Creek to Sunnyside. The work was scheduled to be done in 2007 until former Mayor Bart Peterson canceled the project because ex-Lawrence Mayor Deborah Cantwell repealed the extension of 79th Street to Oaklandon Road.

“I guess there is an Indian burial ground near the intersection of 79th and Oaklandon Road. That is part of the reason why they never did it,” says Tom Britt, publisher and founder of atGeist.com. “They also need money to do it, and I guess pot holes and police are a bigger priority.”

In addition, a few dozen very vocal residents did not want to have a road constructed on the right-of-way adjacent to their property.

“I believe that Geist residents, particularly those who live on the south side of the reservoir, should be indignant that this needed improvement was postponed,” says Ken Pendleton, vice president of Masthead Property Owners Association.

In a letter written to Mayor Greg Ballard in September, Pendleton talks about the Indian Lake Road intersection with 79th Street and how you can witness examples of woeful maintenance of the shoulder and road surface itself.

no shoulder 10 inch drop off

Pavement crumbling into ravine ravine

He refers to the 15-foot drop-off with no railing or warning sign, the encroaching vegetation, plus the lack of maintained shoulders as a “Pedestrian-Deadly Stretch” because there is no safe way to walk this road. With regards to this postponed project, he writes: “It needs to be put back on the table — as close to the top of the pile as it deserves.”

Pendleton discovered that this segment on 79th Street between Sunnyside and Fall Creek is probably the most heavily traveled two-lane road in Marion County. Yes, that’s right. This segment carried 21,804 vehicles per day (vpd) in 2006, even though 16,000 vpd is the “accepted maximum” for a two-lane road. Back in 1995, the count was 15,550 vpd. {Please Note: Traffic counts on major Marion County thoroughfares were provided by Mr. Maury Plambeck, Director of the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development.}

“For the past 13 years, this stretch has exceeded its limit for vehicle usage, yet we still do not have an active project to widen 79th Street, with a target completion date,” Pendleton contends.

“Looking at the East 82nd Street corridor from Clearvista to Sunnyside, only the Clearvista to Hague Road segment with 27,747 vpd has more traffic than the 79th Street portion,” says Pendleton. “But that segment of 82nd St. has appropriately four traffic lanes, plus a turn lane. So little 79th Street is carrying 10,902 vehicles per lane, versus 6,937 per lane on 82nd Street. No wonder 79th Street traffic is creeping along bumper-to-bumper during the rush hours!”

Pendleton asserts, “Since 2000, we have only had one new traffic count taken in Geist. The 79th Street traffic count of 21,804 vpd taken in 2006 would probably be closer to 23,000 vpd if taken today. We got the 2006 count thanks to Ginny Cain, Councilor of District 5.”

Councilor Cain comments, “With the growth explosion on the Northeast side of Indy and the number of cars needing to use 79th Street to move west, the time has come for 79th Street to be brought up to the standards needed to match the daily number of cars using it.”

With this many vehicles traveling on this two-lane road, congestion is inevitable. Do you realize that sitting in traffic for 10 minutes a day is equivalent to 41.66 hours/year of wasted time? This is like throwing away a whole week of your precious vacation time to sit behind a wheel staring at the bumper in front of you while breathing in gas fumes in between sips of coffee.

“It is absolutely terrible during peak times!” says Cheryl Wright, a Geist resident. ”Thank God, I don’t have to travel it on a daily basis. Something needs to be done to compensate the amount of traffic that flows through that area…I agree! And, of course turning left out of the CVS/strip mall onto 79th is almost impossible at times and very dangerous, as well!”

In addition, some people are not satisfied with the traffic lights, either. Angela Duggan of Geist, adds, “There have been several efforts to widen 79th street…I know it is frustrating to drive it. I take my life in my own hands trying to leave my office at F.C.Tucker anytime between 3-5pm daily! I think that the lights need to be timed better at 79th and Sunnyside to 79th and Fall Creek, as well as the installation of a traffic signal across the street from Kroger and the F.C. Tucker office.”

Besides traffic issues, this stretch poses dangers for our vehicles and pedestrians. There are pot holes and deep crevices on the painted lines making it impossible not to land in them and cause damage to your tires and/or vehicle. The drainage (or rather lack of) is another concern, as water and ice fill the voids making very hazardous driving conditions. If the drainage problem never gets resolved, more water will inevitably collect in the holes. As more cars travel through the standing water, more potholes will form over time. To prevent maximum damage or cracks, you may contact an expert to perform emergency road surface repairs to ensure that everyone is safe.

If this stretch of 79th Street could someday get widened, then eventually Marion County could extend this project on into Castleton. And then, perhaps, the “Multi-Purpose Trail” could finally become a reality which was once promised by Marion County. This multi-purpose trail would allow pedestrians to enjoy their community by cycling, rollerblading, walking and jogging in a much safer way. This trail would run from Sunnyside to Fall Creek and eventually connect with the Upper Fall Creek Loop Trail.

“It’s all about connectivity—getting people out and about, walking and getting into healthier, greener life styles,” Councilor Cain said. “This trail would serve our community for long term.”




If you support the project to widen 79th street from Sunnyside Road to Fall Creek Road, please leave a comment on this story online in order to satisfy getting signatures for a petition. By commenting on this article, you are signing in favor of this project.


If you agree that we have inefficient access to Geist due to inadequate roads that are less safe than what we deserve, and if you are wondering what you can do about it, then Pendleton posts some suggestions:

1) You must care more about your own personal safety than the Department of Pubic Works does.
2) You must expect more from our City of Indianapolis.
3) You must take the time to make some phone calls, or write letters, or sign up for the petition at www.atgeist.com by commenting on this story.
4) You must follow up if nothing is happening.
5) You can indicate your support for collective action by Geist Harbors Property Owners Association.

If you would like to report chuck holes, you may call the Mayor’s Action Center at 327-4622. They will give you a tracking number, and you should follow up with that number if you don’t get any action. To bring larger problems or complaints to the attention of Department of Public Works, please contact one of their Public Information Officers at 327-4000. Or you may prefer to write to them at: 200 E Washington Street, Room 2460, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

When asked about the future of this project, Kit Werbe, one of the Public Information Officers, stated, “We do not have any plans for widening 79th Street right now. Based on a planning study, we can say the project is estimated to cost between $24-25 million in 2013 dollars. The year 2013 would be the earliest for this project.”

Pendleton concludes: “If I’ve learned anything in the 20 years I’ve been concerned about access to Geist, it’s that you must ASK if you want progress. The process is demand-driven! You must ask TODAY and LOUDER than the folks who don’t want change. If you are tired of creeping along on an inadequate, inappropriate 79th Street, then please start asking for improvements—NOW!”

another image of ravine no shoulder

Comments 1

  1. Michael Turik says:

    I agree. That stretch of 79th St. needs to be widened. It is way overdue.

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