February 20, 2024

Bill effectively killing Indianapolis Blue Line gets hearing in House committee

IndyGo Interim CEO Jennifer Pyrz testifies against a bill she says would kill the Blue Line bus system. - Taken from Senate live stream

IndyGo Interim CEO Jennifer Pyrz testifies against a bill she says would kill the Blue Line bus system.

Taken from Senate live stream

A House committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that puts a moratorium on dedicated lanes.

IndyGo officials say the bill will kill the proposed Blue Line, the city’s third bus rapid transit system.

Specifically, the bill creates a year-long moratorium to study the issue of dedicated lanes.

Bill Sponsor Senator Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis) has maintained that his legislation is only intended to study the issue.

But during committee, Freeman told lawmakers that dedicated lanes were outdated.

“I in 2024 see fixed modes of transportation as a 19th, 20th century way of looking at the world,” he said. “I can on my phone now summon my car and take me anywhere in minutes. I think fixed modes of transportation especially in a dedicated lane situation is not the way of the future.”

IndyGo Interim CEO Jennifer Pyrz said federal officials have made clear that even the one-year delay would likely scuttle access to funding for the project, jeopardizing over one hundred million in federal dollars.

She said in emails with the Federal Transportation Administration officials confirmed grants would not move forward if the bill passed.

“They will not execute the grant with us and so this bill would effectively kill the Blue Line,” she said.

Freeman has previously said that dedicated lanes have not been part of the Blue Line project until recently - especially as committee members have pointed to the support from Marion County voters.

However, a recent article in Mirror Indy shows that dedicated lanes have been a part of the public conversation around the Blue Line project - although they were not explicitly part of the referendum that voters approved in 2016.

Representative Blake Johnson (D-Indianapolis) asked Freeman whether he had seen the article.

“I’m aware of revisionist history, yes,” Freeman responded.

Some Irvington businesses testified against the bill in the Senate. Several ultimately walked their testimonies back.

But in the House, there was again a mix of businesses expressing both support and opposition to the bill.

Steve Fusek is the President of Fusek’s True Value Hardware in downtown Indianapolis. He said if people need to take a U-turn to access his business it will hurt traffic to his store.

“I don’t see this helping our business at all,” he said.

Transportation officials in both Bloomington and the Greater Lafayette area came to speak out against the bill - underlining that it could impact cities beyond Indianapolis.

Bryan Smith is the CEO of CityBus in Lafayette, Indiana.

“Senate Bill 52 would sabotage local control and decision-making for communities looking to implement bus rapid transit projects with dedicated bus lanes,” he said.

The bill was held in committee and is expected to receive a vote next week.

 

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