House committee approves mass transit expansion plan

INDIANAPOLIS – A bill that would boost mass transit in Central Indiana passed through a House committee Wednesday morning—but it’s just the first step in a long process.

The House Roads and Transportation Committee approved House Bill 1011 in an 11-1 vote. The bill still has to go through the House Ways and Means Committee before making it to the full House.

“I thought actually we might have a couple of no votes,” said the bill’s author, State Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel. “But we were fairly confident it was going to pass out of the committee.”

“People need to understand the risks before they vote on a public question,” said State Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, who cast the only dissenting vote.

“I think it’s incumbent upon the council to come up with a plan before they approve the referendum,” said Speedy.

The proposal would double bus service, add express bus routes and create corridors for rapid transit such as light rail. To pay for the improvements, the bill calls for a tax of 0.3 percent on Marion and Hamilton counties. Federal money would only cover about half of the system’s cost.

Supporters want a referendum in the 2014 general election to let voters decide how to pay for the expansion. The $1.3 billion plan would build rail from Noblesville to downtown Indianapolis and expand IndyGo. Marion and Hamilton counties already plan to hold referendums. Surrounding counties would have the option of joining the system later.

Amanda Fishburn supports the idea of a rail line, but hopes it would also be expanded to the east side, where she lives.

“I would hope it would service all of the communities,” Fishburn said. “I think a lot of times, we just worry about north-to-south, and I would hope it would service the east-to-west communities as well.”

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard—an advocate of improved mass transit in the Circle City and surrounding areas—praised Wednesday’s vote.

“Today’s overwhelming vote of support is a good first step to developing a modern regional mass transit system,” Ballard said. “There are still many other steps in this long process, but today Central Indiana is one step closer to making this decades-long dream a reality.”

Ballard previously said that mass transit was a key factor in attracting more businesses to Central Indiana.

Transportation officials hope today’s vote is a sign of things to come.

“Clearly there’s some work to be done, and we’re going to work on that as it goes forward to Ways and Means, but today’s a good day to keep this legislation going forward,” said Ehren Bingaman, executive director, Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority.

“Some folks are concerned about the costs and the tax aspect of it, and those are legitimate concerns,” said Torr. “But I’m hoping, in the end, people will see it will be beneficial to the region.”

If the plan goes through, expansion could start in 2014. It would take an estimated eight years to complete.

11 comments

  • Mike Smay

    Light rail will never pay for itself! Just a drain on the taxpayer again! The system the Mayor wants will not serve the whole city!

  • GUEST2

    JUST LIKE THE ROADWAYS JUST KEEP BUILDING, DON'T HAVE THE MONEY FOR UP KEEP, RESULT BIG MESS. MY POCKETS ARE EMPTY.

    • pro-growth immigrant

      I am also suscept of the plan but it does show how it is paid for and will cost most families $144/year. Companies and skilled employees looking to relocate to Indy will want this type of transportation option.

  • Judy Hill

    My concern is that this will only benefit Hamilton County and the northeast side if Indy. I live on the west side and work in Hendricks County. We can't even get an express bus to downtown Indy. We are expected to pay more taxes to built the system but will reap none of the benefits. My vote would be NO.

    • smile

      I agree. I live on the west side, too. I would like to have more options to driving. However, if my taxes has to increase to only benefit Hamilton County (ie. Fishers and Noblesville) then I will vote no.

  • Lynn

    Hamilton County keeps spending and spending and wanting more and more and more. Now they want money from Marion Cty taxpayers to finance their insatiable appetite of more luxuries. IndyConnect is for the benefit of Hamilton only. So only Hamilton Cty pays for it.

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