February 11, 2021

Lawmakers Hear Bill That Could Impact Rapid Transit Lines

Lawmakers Hear Bill That Could Impact Rapid Transit Lines

Indiana lawmakers heard a bill Thursday that could set IndyGo’s rapid transit lines back.  Much of the testimony was directed at the Blue Line planned for Indianapolis’s westside with service to the airport. 

The rapid transit lines use dedicated lanes to move bus traffic quicker. The expansion of three such lines was approved by Marion County voters and is supported by millions in federal grants. The Red Line, connecting the city’s north and south sides, opened in Sept. 2019.

Under current law, IndyGo must raise 10 percent of operating costs through non-fare, non-tax sources, like state and federal grants.The proposed legislation would change requirements to not count the grant funding. IndyGo President and CEO Inez Evans said not allowing federal grants to count is harmful.

“Much of the existing services and any projects we’ve planned to implement in the future will be at risk,” Evans said.

Bill author Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis) said the legislation is about accountability and said he supports public transit.

“I would challenge us,” Freeman said, “whether we need fixed bus lines.”

Some businesses and first responders spoke in favor of the proposal saying the Blue Line would harm their operations.  Deputy Chief of Operation for Wayne Township Fire Department Stuart Sharp said they do not support the Blue Line.

“To say that we would support anything that would reduce traffic flow, increase congestion and possibly restrict our travel to and from emergencies, we just can’t support,” Sharp said.

Those in opposition to the bill pointed to the necessity for transit expansion and infrastructure improvements. The Blue Line covers part of the district represented by Democratic Indianapolis City-County Councilor Jared Evans. He said the legislation goes against what his constituents want.

“They cast their vote for the Blue Line in droves, but the naysayers have never slept and now they are determined to change the rules in the 11th hour,” Evans said.

IndyGo could lose more than $170 million in federal funding if the rapid transit lines don’t move forward.

Lawmakers will amend and vote on the bill later this month.

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