I-TEAM 8: DPW knew of road complaints for 4 years, says funding is lacking

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Records uncovered by I-Team 8 show the city’s Department of Public Works has failed to address a deteriorating Indianapolis street that residents have complained about for four years. The department says it’s due to a lack of funding.

I-Team 8’s investigation highlights a complicated problem with Indianapolis’ infrastructure: there are dozens of smaller infrastructure projects left over from the height of the city’s Rebuild Indy efforts but fewer funds available to address them.

An I-Team 8 review of budget records provided by the city shows that funding for bridge replacement has dwindled in recent years – from its peak of more than $26 million in 2011 to $5.8 million in last year’s budget.

Neighbors living along Westbrooke Avenue say metal plates were installed years ago as part of a temporary fix to their crumbling street. They are still there.

And motorists driving over them are keeping neighbors awake at night.

“Buh-bump, buh-bump, buh-bump. It’s constant,” Viretta Hendricks told I-Team 8 during an interview. “It sounds like someone is coming into my house.”

Erosion caused by localized flooding of a nearby creek has left holes in the road’s surface.

A DPW inspector’s note from a March 2012 notes that the hole is “several feet deep” and “while it may not pose a hazard to cars or trucks, it could very possibly be a hazard to motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians.”

David Tucker has lived along Westbrooke Avenue for years.

He says his complaints to the city about the metal plates have yielded little results.

“It’s the inner city. It feels like they don’t care,” Tucker said. “I want to make sure this gets fixed right.”

With more than 20 bridges slated for replacement in Indianapolis, work has only been completed on one of them and begun on another, I-Team 8 has learned.

“The City of Indianapolis has about 540 structures out there and this is one of the structures that is in disrepair and we need to get it fixed,” Melody Park with the Department of Public Works told I-Team 8.  “But we have 145 that are not in the fair condition and we need about $62 million to fix it.”

The problem, Park says, is money.

“We are depleted with resources, both personnel as well as the funds, but we try to do best we can and provide the best service that we can with what we have,” Park told I-Team 8’s Bennett Haeberle.

That reality has still left neighbors along Westbrooke Avenue feeling like they’ve been neglected.

“After a while you just get used to it, but you can hear it all night long,” said neighbor Samantha Pittman.

The metal plates were installed as a temporary solution until the bridge could be replaced in 2018, according to Park.

Park initially told I-Team 8 that the city has known about the issue for “over a year.” But a Google street view image shows metals plates were on the road in 2011. Records obtained by I-Team 8 through an open records request show that complaints were registered with the Mayor’s Action Center as early as 2012.

In an email follow-up to Park and a DPW spokesman, neither addressed how long the department has known about the issue.

Neighbors say, over time, it appears to have gotten worse.  In June, when city inspectors returned to conduct a routine site inspection, neighbors snapped photos of large holes in the ground once the plates were removed.

“I about flipped out. I could not believe the hole was that big. It’s terrible,” Tucker said.

Neighbors say that I-Team 8’s investigation appears to have expedited work on the street. Spray-painted markings and flags could be spotted along the street this week.

A DPW spokesman emailed I-Team 8 to note that preliminary work is scheduled to begin this week to repair the street, although the bridge will not be replaced until 2018.

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