I know that headline is going to get some people upset, even before they know what I’m discussing. There’s a clear dislike on the South side for this affluent city to the north. Some of it is justified. Some of it isn’t, and some of it’s probably football related in the Center Grove area.
Nonetheless, there is one thing in particular that Carmel is doing that the south side should as well.
The South side doesn’t need a $150 million concert hall, a boatload of municipal debt or statues of random people all over Old Town Greenwood. But the South side does need to address its traffic flow the way Carmel has.
I’ve been working in Carmel for about a year now, just long enough to recognize someone who’s never in the area. How can I do this? Simple. They’re the ones making stupid roundabout jokes. Just to be clear, there’s no such thing as a good roundabout joke. It’s a circle of asphalt used in lieu of a stop sign. I don’t even think the late George Carlin could have found a way to make that dirty or vulgar enough to be funny.
Still, people from outside the area are always yapping about the numerous roundabouts. They say things like “Man, I got dizzy driving up here through all those roundabouts,” or other, equally corny jokes. I’m sure I made similar remarks when I first started working in Carmel. I’d made a lap or two around the ones at the Greenwood Park Mall and Monument Circle, but roundabouts were still fairly foreign to me. Now, I love them, and I think the South side should learn to love them, too.
Even people in Carmel joke about roundabouts from time to time – again, not very well. It is a bit different to have a circle at almost every intersection, but having driven extensively on both sides of town, I can say that Carmel’s traffic flow is much better than the South side’s.
These days, you’d better not have plans before 8 p.m. if you plan on traveling any stretch of Meridian/S.R 135 between Southern Plaza and Whiteland Road just after normal business hours. The same’s true for U.S. 31, Emerson, Madison – really any north-south road. Traffic moves so slowly, it’s like traveling during a blizzard except with a lot less snow and a bit fewer displays of bad driving. It’s a nightmare: traffic lights at every intersection and too many cars per lane of traffic.
In Carmel, on the other hand, the city took its roundabout construction to the next level (literally) to ease traffic on Keystone Parkway. Carmel built six roundabouts above Keystone to remove traffic lights at those major intersections. Now, drivers can cruise along Keystone from 98th Street past 136th Street without stopping once – and only slowing down when spotting cops on the side of the road (the speed limit is still unreasonably low).
Sure, that multi-year project cost more than $100 million. But as I wrote in a recent column and still tell my wife when she gets on me for speeding, time is more valuable than money. That section of Keystone likely took 15-20 minutes to drive during peak hours years ago. Now it takes five, regardless of time of day.
Greenwood deserves credit for constructing a roundabout on Fairview Road and eliminating what was a 15-minute wait to approach a four-way stop. I’m not aware of other improvements in the area, but if they have been made, kudos are due for those too.
The South side may not like Carmel, and that’s totally fine. But this city to the north has made some great traffic improvements via its many, many roundabouts. These circles are more than just the butts of bad jokes, though. They’re the possible solution to the South side’s horrendous rush hour traffic.
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