Transforming the Spider: A scary intersection becomes a gateway

The Spider in 1956 courtesy MapIndy

by Doug Day

The intersection of Delaware Street and Fall Creek Parkway was once the most confusing intersection in Indianapolis. On September 29 the community will celebrate the transformation of the Spider into the Delaware Street Gateway and Silver Fall Park.

This formerly unfriendly intersection is the southern gateway to the 2,000-residence Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood. Prior to construction, the bewildering layout of the intersecting streets not only hindered traffic flow but was also visually unappealing, with large Wrong Way, One Way, and Do Not Enter signs facing commuters with negative messages. Silver Fall Park was bisected by so many roads that it was unrecognizable as a greenspace.

An original part of landscape architect George Kessler’s Indianapolis Park and Boulevard System, the Spider was nicknamed for its numerous asphalt legs. “It is hard to imagine a more pedestrian-unfriendly intersection,” acknowledged long-time area resident Lorraine Phillips Vavul. Before the redesign, she said, There were no pedestrian signals or crosswalks at the intersection of Delaware Street and Fall Creek Parkway and no sidewalks on either side of Fall Creek Parkway from Central Avenue to Meridian Street.”

READ MORE: Rejuvenating an Emerald Asset.

Now there are four crosswalks with pedestrian signals for both Fall Creek Parkway and Delaware. The inductive wires embedded in the street signal the presence of bicycles as well as cars, making the intersection bike-commuter friendly. With the Washington Boulevard leg removed, evening rush-hour traffic through the neighborhood is greatly reduced and parking restrictions have been lifted. The addition of stop signs at Delaware Street, Talbott Street, and Washington Boulevard make the boulevard once again a quiet residential street. The Talbott Street leg was removed, so Pennsylvania Street is also less congested, making access to the four schools in the immediate area much safer.

Updated vision for the Spider. Courtesy Destination Fall Creek. Click to enlarge.

A large plaza with three limestone benches was installed in Silver Fall Park to showcase a major public art sculpture. In 2013, a nationwide search for public art for the park resulted in more than 20 proposals. Three were selected and scale models created for public input. Silver Fall by Rocky Ripple artist Scott Westphal was selected, but due to increasing construction costs, it had to be scaled down to a simpler version of the original design. “It’s an honor to be the selected artist of the gateway sculpture into the wonderful neighborhood Mapleton-Fall Creek,” Westphal said. “I hope the flow of the Creek and the wind blowing leaves will be the energy felt by the viewer. The effects will contrast from a daytime monolithic sculpture with leaves in shadow to the soft glow of nighttime.” The “soft glow” he’s referring to is the sculpture’s internal lighting, which makes the art piece even more compelling in the evening.

Reconfiguration of the Spider presented an opportunity to accelerate a section of the DigIndy Tunnel project being built by Citizens Energy Group (CEG) to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSO) into Fall Creek.

READ MORE: Utility Work Brings Long-Term Improvements to Mapleton-Fall Creek

At the community’s request, CEG moved the construction of five diversion structures and connecting pipes for five CSO lines from Central Avenue to Talbott Street at a cost of $14 million. This is not a simple project, as these pipes are fragile and 30 feet below ground, with other pipes on top of them. To accomplish this project, 28th Street between Central Avenue and Talbott Street was torn up and replaced, and one parking lane added at the community’s request to facilitate access to the new park.

Join the community in celebrating the transformation from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, at 200 East Fall Creek Parkway North Drive.

Doug Day is the “champion” of Destination Fall Creek, a task force from the Mid-North Quality of Life Plan that partners with multiple city, neighborhood, and community organizations, and business stakeholders and residents along Fall Creek, to lay the groundwork for significant improvements in Mid-North neighborhoods along Fall Creek. Its mission is to transform Fall Creek into a recreational, residential and commercial destination with access to art, nature and beauty for every citizen, every day.

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