Portion of Cultural Trail plagued with problems bikers call hazards

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A part of the Cultural Trail has been plagued with problems.

The Swarm Street project was supposed to be complete with the trail’s launch last year. It’s an architectural art project that senses a person’s or bicycles presence and lights up below and above people as they go down the Cultural Trail through the Virginia Avenue parking garage downtown.

But, three years since construction started, it’s still a blocked path through a dark tunnel. Bikers, runners and walkers are calling it a hazard.

If you’re headed to Fountain Square from downtown on the Cultural Trail you run into a detour.

“We skip that part of the trail for now,” said runner Lisa Singleton.

“This entire area is just a little weird,” said biker Joey Ponce.

You can find bikers forced into the street. One man was seen walking on top of the median before he was able to cross to the other side.

“So, it does make it a little bit scary, passing through here,” said Ponce.

The Cultural Trail took about 12 years to plan and build. Swarm Street had already been under construction for two of those years.

Bobby Neeb posted a Yelp review after the trail’s launch May 10, 2013. He says the trail is great, but points out “This passage is unwelcoming and dangerous.”

24-Hour News 8 caught up with him on Thursday, almost exactly one year later. He can’t believe nothing has changed.

“Oh, no way. I thought there would be some resolution by now,” said Neeb.

Bikers have to make a decision. They can either hit the street in the middle of a five way intersection, detour away from the trail, or travel against traffic on the opposite sidewalk.

“Getting it finished will actually make the transition going to downtown and Fountain Square a lot easier. A lot safer,” said Ponce.

Acconci Studio out of New York is the project developer. 24-Hour News 8 reached to Vito Acconci on Thursday. He said the project’s purpose isn’t just for show, it’s also to light up an obscure part of the trail.

The Cultural Trail Inc. Executive Direcot Karen Haley answered questions via email. She responded to the potential dangers of the unlit tunnel by stating, “I believe the area under construction is about a block and a half long. There are currently lights in the area under the garage in the construction area, as well as detour signs directing trail users to an alternate route for their safety. The lights that are currently in place provide more light then was present before the construction began.”

Bikers 24-Hour News 8 spoke to disagree and say you need to be prepared to ride through it because no matter what time of day, it’s dark and gloomy.

“If you don’t wear reflective clothing, that traffic thing, somebody is not going to see you,” said Neeb.

Acconci says the Swarm Street project has been marred with unforeseen problems from heavy water removal to wrong parts and faulty installation. After three years, he says it could be finished in three weeks.

Haley went in to more detail in her emailed response saying, “There have been technical difficulties, water getting into the electronic components which control the lights and motion sensors for the piece, which have caused delays during the piece’s implementation. Currently, 6 of the 241 control boards are being remade in order for the piece to function as it was intended by the artist.”

She confirmed Acconci’s timeline stating the Swarm Street project should be complete sometime this spring. Hoosiers hope it happens.

“When it opens I’ll definitely take that path every time. It’s right down where I need to be. So, it will be really nice. I’m anxiously waiting,” said Singleton.

Haley says until the portion through the Virginia Avenue garage is complete to follow the detour signs.

“To protect people’s safety, there are detour signs on both the north and south approaches of the trail directing cyclists and pedestrians to the sidewalk on the northbound lane side of Virginia Avenue. This is for their safety. Additionally, cyclists could decide to detour via Delaware Street and South Street, or if they are traveling southbound, they may choose to ride in the southbound traffic lane,” said Haley.

Bicyclists 24-Hour News 8 spoke to have a different suggestion.

“Hopefully it does get opened and it does provide a really lit up and almost a nice destination point on the Cultural Trail. But, until then, this entire area is a little difficult and probably something that riders and pedestrians should try and avoid,” said Ponce.

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