Feds could give Indy $75 million for Red Line transit project

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CARMEL, Ind. (Feb. 9, 2016) - Not everyone is on board when it comes to the proposed Red Line project. The rapid transit bus service would run from Westfield to Greenwood and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

People aren’t necessarily sold on the price tag. The first stretch will likely cost $93 million. President Obama requested a $75 million line item in the budget Tuesday to cover some of the cost.

“The stations will be in the center of the street, more like a train platform, you’ll actually board on either side, like a train would,” said IndyGo Director of Special Transit Projects, Justin Stuehrenberg.

Business leaders in Hamilton County packed into an IndyGo bus for a trial run of the Red Line, running from Carmel to downtown Indy.

“We plan to open the red line in 2018 so it’s basically a three and a half year window from the start of engineering to opening,” said Stuehrenberg.

The Red Line is a proposed rapid transit bus service running from Westfield to Greenwood, with some 50 stops planned along US 31, in Broad Ripple and downtown.

It’s considered rapid because the buses would run every 10 to 15 minutes and have designated lanes. That’s a concern in neighborhoods like Broad Ripple where street space is already tight.

“Parking is a major concern in this corridor. You don’t see it as much on this block but as we go further south, there’s a lot of housing without off-street parking,” said Stuehrenberg.

Cost is a concern as well. It will be around $93 million just for the first stretch of the line from Broad Ripple, running downtown. But Hamilton County business leaders say the payoff is more than worth it.

“If you had the opportunity to go down to your job the way we came downtown today, a whole lot of people want that opportunity,” said Mo Merhoff, the President of OneZone, the combined Chamber of Commerce for Fishers and Carmel.

Everyone on the bus Tuesday was tied to Hamilton County's growing business community. Many are in support of the line they say is a major appeal for businesses considering Hamilton County for their next home.

“It’s a great way to show business people how bus rapid transit can actually work, how efficient it can be, how easy it can be, and there’s a difference between reading about a project and being able to experience it,” said Merhoff.

If the President's transportation budget is approved, the $75 million is good to go. But taxpayers here will need to vote on supporting the project before any construction can begin. That will likely happen within the next couple of years.