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Debate over IndyGo, Washington Street continues in Statehouse

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Posted at 4:06 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 16:06:46-05

INDIANAPOLIS — State lawmakers discussed Thursday a proposal that could have expansive, years-long impact on the transit system of Indianapolis.

Senate Bill 141, by Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, could create financial penalties for IndyGo. Currently, IndyGo must fund at least 10% of its operating budget from sources other than taxes and fares. Current law also requires that at least 25% of IndyGo’s budget for expanded routes come from ridership fares.

There are currently no consequences if those two conditions aren’t met, but Freeman wants to see some. If passed, IndyGo could get some of its funding cut, roughly $6 million, if it doesn’t meet those specifications.

IndyGo says it is following both laws. It is meeting the 10% rule, but Freeman and Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, took issue with the way it was raised. IndyGo used federal grant money to fund the 10% rule. Freeman’s 2021 bill would also make it very difficult for IndyGo to use grant money for that purpose. The money would likely have to be privately raised.

An IndyGo spokesperson said 30.5% of its budget came from fares in 2019 and 26.4% of its expanded route budget came from fares in 2020, following the current law.

Young especially took issue with the planned dedicated lanes on Washington Street with the Blue Line, which is set to open in 2025.

He said the lanes would take away parking, take away left-hand turns and be an obstacle for emergency vehicles needing to get through. A local business owner had similar criticisms about the project.

IndyGo President and CEO Inez Evans said if SB 141 passes, the Purple Line and Blue Line will be in jeopardy. She stressed that there are other improvements, such as sidewalks, crosswalks and stormwater systems, that are also in jeopardy.

The hearing for the bill lasted more than an hour, but no vote was taken Thursday. The bill was held to a future meeting, likely next week.