City of Fishers leaders led a tour of the Nickel Plate Trail tunnel under 116th Street to give members of the media a first look at the project’s progress.
Construction began in September 2020 and should be complete by spring 2022. Mayor Scott Fadness, who led the tour with Fishers Engineering Director Jason Taylor, said 40,000 cars travel on 116th Street daily.
“For years, nobody wanted to cross the street because it’s just so congested,” Fadness said.
Fadness acknowledged that tunnel’s location led to a series of complications, largely because of underground utilities where the tunnel was planned. The city began relocating the utilities two years before construction began. Utilities included gas lines, fiber optic lines and communication lines. The utilities were either buried deeper or were rerouted.
Fadness said a common question he fields about the tunnel is why the city opted for a tunnel instead of a bridge, especially with the buried utilities challenges. He said because a bridge requires a certain length of sloping to be ADA compliant, and apartments, hotel and developments under construction would have a view of the bridge wall when completed.
“The most viable scenario was for us to go underground,” Fadness said.
However, the city made an effort to make the tunnel not feel dark and constricting.
“You’ve been in tunnels that feel like a narrow hallway and they’re dark, and it doesn’t give a sense of safety and place, and that’s not what we wanted to do,” Fadness said. “We wanted to open it up from the design perspective.”
The tunnel is extra wide and flanked by a set of stairs so trail users can leave the trail and be in downtown Fishers. There are gathering spaces on the southeast entry that will be a space for live music. The trail from South Street to North Street will be lit and open after dusk, unlike the rest of the trail that closes at dusk. Security cameras are also in place at each end of the tunnel.
Fadness also gave an update on the Nickel Plate Bar & Grill. He said he’s not sure if the building would remain standing because of structural issues and electrical and health code violations.
“There was contemplation to save the building and put another restaurant in there, but once we got in there and started really looking at the building, it would cost an inordinate amount of money to bring it up to code,” Fadness said.