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More than buses: Legislature moves also threaten expensive infrastructure improvements on Washington, 38th streets

Red Line Construction.JPG
Posted at 2:22 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 14:24:25-05

INDIANAPOLIS — As the debate over IndyGo’s future continues in the Indiana legislature, the Indianapolis Department of Public works hopes one part of the planned Blue Line and Purple Line doesn’t go away – the infrastructure improvements.

Senate Bill 141, by Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, would 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. IndyGo says it is following both laws but the bill, which passed the Indiana Senate this week, would make it harder for IndyGo to use federal grant money to satisfy the 10% rule.

With the dedicated bus lane and rapid transit across Washington and 38th streets would also come hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements.

“All of that goes away if this passes,” Indianapolis DPW Director Dan Parker said Wednesday.

At risk on 38th Street:

  • 9.5 miles of sidewalks
  • 355 ADA curb ramps
  • Separated storm sewers for neighborhoods
  • New pavement east of Fall Creek

For Washington Street:

  • 17 lane miles of new street construction
  • 10.5 miles of new or repaired sidewalks
  • 2.2 miles of multi-use path
  • 499 ADA curb ramps

“The question before the legislature is, ‘Do you want to throw away $200 million in federal money for all of those infrastructure upgrades for the loss of potentially 1-4 minutes of travel time in peak hours along those corridors?’” Parker said.

A major sticking point for many supporters of the Statehouse bill is the dedicated bus lanes. They believe it will seriously slow down traffic on Washington Street.

Parker said DPW is comfortable with dedicated bus lanes because Washington Street has lost 40% of its traffic over the last 40 years.

“In 1982, on the east side of Indianapolis, almost 30,000 vehicles a day used Washington Street. Now, that number is less than 17,000,” he said. “So why are we comfortable with dedicated bus lanes on Washington Street? Because the U.S. highway that was built … can accommodate the traffic for motorists and also the dedicated bus lanes.”

The Red Line, completed in September 2019, came with similar infrastructure improvements. Some of those included:

  • 208 traffic signals upgraded
  • 19 lane miles of new paving
  • 30,000 linear feet of sidewalk replaced
  • 596 ADA curb ramps

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

IndyGo CEO: Senate Bill 141 would kill Purple and Blue bus line plans
Debate over IndyGo, Washington Street continues in Statehouse