INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Until now, the proposed controversial IndyGo Red Line has been a concept in search of visualization.
There were maps and rough sketches and verbal descriptions, but nothing the trusting public, tax-approving politicians, beleaguered bus riders and staunch opponents could look at to realize what the figurative backbone of Marion County’s 21st century rapid transit solution would look like.
IndyGo has released a fresh set of renderings that vividly portrays how the long-planned, much-disputed more than 12-mile long system would appear.
“You’ll see what the station architecture will look like and the placement at each intersection,” said IndyGo’s Bryan Luellen. “We are expecting to break ground potentially yet this year.”
That’s despite a lack of firm federal funding, a single dollar collected from a new income tax and growing opposition by business owners along North College Ave. near Broad Ripple.
The renderings graphically display Red Line stations and dedicated bus lanes in readily identifiable locations throughout Indianapolis.
From Broad Ripple and College Ave. near the northernmost end of the Red Line, south to College and 52nd St., onto to 30th and Meridian St. close to the Children’s Museum, then to Capitol Ave. in front of the Statehouse, snaking its way down Virginia Ave. to Fountain Square and then south through Garfield Park toward its end destination near the University of Indianapolis, the renderings give viewers an approximation of the look and design of the shelters and the challenges motorists, bicyclists, drivers looking for parking and residents will face once the bus lanes begin swallowing up real estate on busy thoroughfares.
The Red Line will pass through the Julia M. Carson Transit Center downtown, but not be constructed in a continuous linear fashion from north to south due to other projects already scheduled along the route.
“It could be that we would take Capitol Ave. and Meridian St. concurrently and prioritize that first to take advantage of DPW replacing the Capitol Avenue Bridge over Fall Creek and the Citizens Energy project, the Deep Rock Connector tunnel,” said Luellen.
The just-released IndyGo renderings also include plans for two-way traffic on a current one-way street and dedicated bike lanes.
“The Capitol Avenue section of the Red Line actually calls for a northbound bus lane and a southbound bus lane on the same street,” said Luellen. “Because of the co-location of the north and south facilities on one street, its better operationally and for safety to co-locate the bike facilities two-way on Illinois, so, what we’re doing here is kind of creating a transit street on Capitol and a bike street on Illinois.”
Congress has not appropriated a $75 million grant in the 2017 federal budget to pay for the bulk of the Red Line construction and President Trump has proposed cutting transit funding in 2018.
If those funds dry up, IndyGo would be left to rely heavily on the $54 million annually it will start receiving next year from the recently approved Marion County transit income tax. That revenue stream would be pledged to secure bonds that will push the cost of the full transit system expansion, including improvements to current routes, to an estimated $176 million.
Mayor Joe Hogsett expects that beefing up current services will be a priority whether IndyGo gets its federal Red Line funding or not.
“That’s going to inform how much resources we have to implement changes next year,” cautioned Luellen. “We’re expecting that we’re going to at least start addressing hours of service and some frequency on the core lines that carry a lot of our passengers today early in 2018. We’re committed to delivering improvements as early as we can, but again, that’s going to be impacted by whether or not the federal grant comes through.”
IndyGo not only intends to make improvements to existing services but plan for related Purple and Blue Lines developments concurrently with its Red Line construction which would be completed within 18 months of turning the first shovel of dirt.
“By and large, in the long term, those local taxes from the income tax are going to cover the increased cost for operating more frequent service earlier in the morning and later at night,” promised Luellen.
IndyGo is launching a second round of public meetings to update residents primarily on the Red Line project and not necessarily the entire rapid transit build out.
Meanwhile, opponents in Broad Ripple are mobilizing their lobbying campaign to convince federal officials to reject the Red Line plan, complaining that traffic congestion and public safety along College Avenue will be compromised while businesses will suffer if street parking is sacrificed in favor of dedicated bus lanes.
Left undetermined is the impact the Red Line pavement commitments will have on privately operated parking meters and Blue Indy charging stations that represent significant investments on behalf of the city and franchise operators who may be displaced by traffic lanes.