Monday, July 27, 2009

Connecting the Corridor: Indianapolis to Noblesville Light Rail Exhibit

If you travel from Hamilton County to Indianapolis on a regular basis you know there's a real need for effective public transportation to connect the Northeast corridor. The combined effects of increased fuel costs, congested roads, and concern for the environment have created a climate ripe for innovative solutions to the problem of getting from point A to point B as painlessly as possible. A proposed light rail line, installed on existing Nickel Plate Railroad track, would help alleviate the traffic congestion and provide commuters a more environmentally friendly choice for getting to work.

Federal funding may actually make this a possibility in the near future and it is no surprise that Ball State students and professors have been involved during the planning process. Students in Professor Harry Eggink's graduate architecture class and Professor Scott Truex's urban planning class spent the semester envisioning the northeast side of Indianapolis after a proposed light rail line is up and running. The line would run from 146th Street in Noblesville to South Street in downtown Indianapolis along the existing Nickel Plate rail line.

You can see their work in a new exhibit, Next Generation Neighborhoods: Investing in Transit, on display at the Ball State Indianapolis Center through August 21st. The public is welcome to stop by the Center at for this free exhibit. The Center is located at 50 S. Meridian Street, suite 302 and is open from 8-4.

CIRTA (Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority) and the Ball State College of Architecture and Planning teamed up to create the exhibit. Approximately 20 display boards showcase transit history and depict new employment hubs, the revitalization of urban neighborhoods and specific station stops as well as the challenges of opportunities of each of those stops.

"The exhibit is meant to help us see the possibilities," said Ehren Bingaman, executive director of CIRTA. "A lot of people have been talking about the possibilities, but when you get a chance to 'see' what a transit stop at 22nd Street or 116th Street could look like and how it could affect a neighborhood, it takes the vision to a whole new level."

"Projects like this reflect the impact Ball State students are having on Indiana's economy," said Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora. "These initiatives are tangible, practical and, simply put, are helping Hoosier companies and communities move forward. And from an academic perspective, our students are receiving an education grounded in immersive learning experiences that cannot be duplicated anywhere else."

The idea of light rail in Indiana may seem really revolutionary to some but probably not to anyone over the age of 65 or historians. Those who remember the interurban or have researched it will tell you that Indiana used to have a highly effective public transportation network that connected neighborhoods within Indianapolis and small towns and large cities throughout the state from approximately 1900-1941. For more information on the rich history of interurbans, contact the Indiana Historical Society at Here are a few images from their collection:

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