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Indy council reignites rapid transit debate in Purple Line traffic vote

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Posted at 5:25 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 15:16:30-04

INDIANAPOLIS – The City-County Council took another step forward Monday toward the production of the Purple Line, though not without some debate on the cost and utility of the rapid transit lines.

“Moving forward with this current ‘rapid’ transit line that we have now I think is a bit impulsive,” Minority Leader Brian Mowery, R-District 25, said, making quote marks with his hand.

Mowery voted against a proposal that puts in traffic restrictions along 38th Street, limiting certain turns at some intersections to prepare for the Purple Line. The vote passed 19-5, with one abstention. But it prompted a larger debate about the effectiveness of the lines.

Mowery said IndyGo has allocated roughly $40,000 toward the Purple Line, while the city has committed more than $150 million. But the $40,000 is what IndyGo has raised to its foundation, which is unrelated to the Purple Line. IndyGo has allocated more than $50 million through income taxes and bonds.

He said more needs to be done to discuss the successes and downfalls of the Red Line, which opened to the public in September.

“I think that we will see that we have not been as successful as hoped,” Mowery said.

Councilor Michael Paul-Hart, R-District 18, said he was concerned about the traffic impact the proposal and rapid transit line would have on 38th Street, specifically the dedicated bus lanes.

IndyGo CEO Inez Evans said there is a direct correlation between the dedicated lanes and grant funding from the federal government. It’s based on a score given to transit projects. The better a project meets certain standards such as dedicated lanes, the higher the score, the more money it gets.

She said the Purple Line currently calls for 90% dedicated lanes. The Red Line is 60% dedicated lanes.

“The project would have to be rescored if there is not approval for the dedicated lanes,” Evans said. “The funding that is set aside for this project is in the budget year for distribution this year as the federal government has a little over $500 million for distribution.”

Councilor Ali Brown, D-District 5, represents the Lawrence area, much of which could use the Purple Line when it opens in 2023. She said it can take up to 45 minutes to get downtown from her district.

“The Purple Line gives us hope,” she said. “With these lines, these dedicated lanes of traffic on 38th Street, it’s actually going to simplify traffic, because if you’ve ever taken 38th Street from Carroll Road, from the county road toward downtown, the road is not good on the sides. This will make traffic flow faster – people won’t be parking in the street.”