Cultural Trail snags $20.5 million stimulus boost

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The Indianapolis Cultural Trail has been awarded $20.5 million in federal stimulus funds, which will be used for construction on the remaining 4.5 miles of the project, officials announced Wednesday.

The federal contribution brings the total amount of money raised to fund the trail to $62.5 million, exceeding the original fund-raising goal of $55 million. The additional $7.5 million will enable the city to upgrade infrastructure during construction of the trail, which should be completed by the end of 2011.

“This is a tremendous investment in Indianapolis,” Mayor Greg Ballard said in a prepared statement. “The Cultural Trail is an undeniable asset to our community.”

Ballard was scheduled to join U.S. Rep. Andre Carson and Central Indiana Community Foundation President Brian Payne for a mid-day news conference at Davlan Park to announce the new funding.

The award is part of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Funds will be used to complete the part of the trail that connects the southeast corridor (Fountain Square), the central corridor (Washington Street) and the west corridor (Blackford Street).

“Today’s announcement is a serious jolt to our local economy and the future of tourism in Indianapolis,” Rep. Carson [D-Indianapolis] said in prepared statement. “The Cultural Trail is a prime example of how the Recovery Act is both working to create jobs immediately and lay the ground for future economic growth.”

Supporters of the trail say the trail should generate a total economic benefit of more than $800 million and create more than 10,000 jobs through construction, private-sector investment along the trail and an expansion of tourism.

The grant requires the $20.5 million be spent by the end of 2011, which should enable the trail to be finished before Indianapolis hosts Super Bowl XLVI.

The largest private gift to the trail is a $15 million donation received in October 2006 from Gene and Marilyn Glick.

Payne said a new not-for-profit, Indianapolis Cultural Trail Inc., has been formed to manage, market and maintain the trail once it is completed. The organization also will continue to raise funds for the trail’s ongoing maintenance.


  • Wrong About Your Comments
    The Cultural Trail was NEVER touted as being entirely privately funded. It was always said that no LOCAL or STATE funding would be used on the trail, which is true.

    From the very beginning, the trail received a large federal transportation grant, and this money along with the Glicks' donation is what allowed construction to commence.

    So, you get no apology. Also, before "opening your mouth" again, you should make sure you have your facts straight.
  • Endownment
    Janis -- there is a $5M maintenance endowment built into the Cultural Trail budget -- seeded by $2M from the Margot L. and Robert S. Eccles Charitable Fund -- so there's no need to be worried about on-going maintenance costs for the Trail. *** The amount of mis-information regarding this project is mind-bloggling. ***
  • funding
    Pack -- if you use your time machine to see what was said originally, it was that no LOCAL tax money would be used for the trail. One of the first funding sources for the trail was a $15M federal grant, for god's sake -- there was federal money in the works from day one! You could argue that it's irrelevant whether the taxes are local or federal (and I'd agree) but there was no bait-and-switch.
  • The Culture Trail will go the way of all public projectss
    I guess we'll see what happens when the stimulus funds run out and there are no extra dollars to repair the infrastructure added for our Culture Trail. Private businesses won't chip in to fix it up; they'll just close up shop and move some where else or go out of business. Just wait for the $10,000,000,000 Indy transit system to bravely carry local Hoosiers into the future! That'll be fun to watch.
    • Time Machine
      Disregarding the interesting debate about use of stimulus money to "create" temporary construction jobs, does anyone remember that this trail was sold to the people as a privately-funded endeavor? The Glick family put up the money and taxpayers wouldn't have to spend a dime? I was sternly lectured on these very pages for suggesting that this trail was a boondoggle waiting to happen. The lecturer(s) repeatedly pointed out that the CT was not a taxpayer program so I should shut my mouth. I did, but now I expect an apology. We were lied to, the goalposts were moved, and now everyone's stuck with the bill.

      The trail will be super-neat when it is done, but the end (super-neat) doesn't justify the means (bait-and-switch).
      • It's a Public Thorougfare
        Would you please point to an example of a public street (aside from the handful of private tollways) that "pay for themselves?"

        It's a new road, sidewalk, sewers, landscaping, lighting, signs, etc. This is called public infrastructure. There is no charge to walk on a public street/sidewalk, so how is it going to "pay for itself?" All public streets are built with taxpayer money. Now, if the question is will it lead to new private investment along the trail, then the answer is yes. It already has as there have been various businesses and developers who have announced projects along the trail way and specifically mentioned that the trail was an important factor in their decision to locate or plan a project there.
      • What's the impact?
        It's easy to say that there'll be an "impact" by having a cultural trail in Indianapolis. So what is it? What are the short and long term benefits of having this? It's just another waste of money. Remember this, if any idea is a great idea it will pay for itself, it doesn't need to feed at the public trough.
      • Deficit...
        Judging from the current record deficit... the $1.05 includes a 35 cent loan that we will need to repay in the future (alone with Indiana's traditional underwriting of other states debt - the 15 cent contribution).
      • The Map is Here
        Go to the link on the Web at indyculturaltrail.org

        I can't list the full link since IBJ doesn't allow links to be posted.

        This shows you the graphic with the general outline of the Trail. You can then click on the PDF files to download the actual street detail.
      • Map
        Is there a map of the trail somewhere? I would really like to see it.

        • At least it's paid for
          Some people are disgruntled about the Trail, yet it's paid for.

          I bet these same complainers are the ones who supported the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium, which can't even afford its heating bills.

          Great work Trail organizers!
        • Either You Are Ill-Informed or Intentionally Dishonest
          PaynesFolly, what you and others spouting that false line about "world's most expensive sidewalk" consistently fail to acknowledge is the true scope of the project: Replacing the sewers underneath the streets, burying the utility lines, replacing sidewalks and curbs, rebuilding intersections, new traffic controls, new signage, repaving the streets, landscaping, new lighting, putting in benches, installing artwork, etc.

          The Trial is a major infrastructure project, not a mere sidewalk, and its costs are very reasonable for the scope of the work being done and well in-line with the costs of similar projects.

          Also, the Trail when finished will be a loop and will connect several very popular and locally important neighborhoods and historical, cultural, and artistic landmarks. So, I am sure what support you have for your little laundry list of criticisms.

          The Trial is an excellent and innovative project. Hopefully, the project will set a standard for more quality capital projects to come for Indianapolis.
        • agree with Greg
          Don't complain about higher taxes when the people of Indy think this is such a great idea. The jobs generated will be short lived, unlike the debt.
        • Trail to nowhere
          Cultural Trail = world's most expensive sidewalk ($7MM+ per mile).

          Problems with trail:
          -No clear terminus for trail users - does not lead directly to large public places where a variety of people (bikers, runners, walkers, families, picnickers, etc.) can congregate, relax, and enjoy the city. The trail may make the city more of a drive-by experience (vs. destination experience) for the non-motor bound.
          -It is designed like non-linear spokes; it's not designed in a circular fashion where one can start and end their trip without retracing their path (i.e., boring and repetitive).
          -Calling it a "cultural" trail is a bit disingenuous. I'd say only place this is somewhat true is the Indiana Ave area where there is (or used to be) an enormous amount of black history.
          • federal tax
            Old Salt -- I'm afraid you are grossly incorrect. There was once an imbalance whereby Indiana received about 80 cents for every dollar sent to the federal government. However, in 2005 (the most recent data available from taxfoundation.org), Indiana received $1.05 for every dollar we sent to the federal goverment. http://www.taxfoundation.org/taxdata/show/22685.html
            • Get Real!
              For those of you crowing about how great this money for the cultural trail is should ask yourself which would benefit the city more. The cultural trail or repairing existing roads. Try driving on 46th street between Keystone and College. If the city wants a cultural trail it should pay for it itself. Indiana gets these little grants and think its great while we only get back 20% of what we send to Washington while the other 80% gets spread out to the other states for their grand trails and other public projects. Tell Washington to leave our money her to begin with and we will build our own trail.
            • Yes, I Would
              Currently, I help to contribute toward billions of federal dollars for local projects that benefit Cincinnati, Miami, New York, LA, New Haven, etc. A healthy and prosperous country is made up of healthy and prosperous communities. We pay taxes so we can pool resources and pay for services and projects that individual communities may not be able to afford on their own.

              Normal, IL got $22 million of TIGER stimulus funds as part of this grant for a local rail and bus transportation facility. I don't begrudge that community for getting a federal grant for their local bus depot, and I am glad they can move forward with an important local project for their community. I expect that my federal taxes will go toward benefiting communities all over the country.

              The finished Trial in Indianapolis will not only making it easier to get around the central city, but it will replace antiquated vital infrastructure like sewers, etc. AND it will provide lots of jobs for construction workers, engineers, etc. at a time when many people need work.

            • Yes
              DRT -- I would gladly support a similar thing in Cincinnati. The whole purpose of stimulus is to pump money into the economy by activating latent economic power (i.e. giving unemployed people jobs). Why not achieve that goal while at the same time producing great civic pieces that people will enjoy for generations? I don't think anyone regrets the federal money that was spent during the Great Depression on the Civilian Conservation Corp that gave us a huge chunk of our National Parks system. It's not a perfect analogy, but the Cultural Trail is very similar. I would hope for similarly high-quality projects to be funded in all cities.
            • Proof
              This is not about just building pavement, but about creating a unique, world-class, urban, linear park with compelling experiences and places where people will want to live, work, and visit, and, consequently, spend and invest their money.

              There many efforts taking place in tandem with the trail effort. Five years of concentrated work to build the six Cultural Districts linked by the trail. Decades of investment made by public and private organizations and individuals in these areas that gave a reason for the trail to exist. The trail will link six unique destinations in the city that serve as neighborhood resources, amenities for those who live in Greater Indianapolis, and a draw for visitors to our city.

              Investors already see the value the trail will bring. Business owners already see the potential. Neighborhood residents are excited about the project.

              In 2008 and 2009, 29 new businesses opened in the Southeast neighborhood, the majority in Fountain Square, creating an estimated 112 new jobs. Granted, some of those businesses have closed and the jobs have disappeared, but the majority remain. Roughly $450,000 has been invested in these same two years through public and private programs and through private investment. Pretty remarkable considering the economic climate.

              That's certainly nowhere near the 10,000/$800M anticipated impact, but it does serve to illustrate that the Cultural Trail will, and already is, making a difference.
            • Jobs
              HarveyF -- Do you think the trail will just magically appear? At the very least it will produce transient jobs for construction of the trail. Any development along the trail -- and there have already been several proposed (IMOCA, Trailside, Riley Tower expansion) -- will also produce more construction jobs and a number of permanent jobs in the buildings that get built.

              I'm not sure how they estimate 10k jobs, but it certainly will produce jobs.
            • dan is still right
              No one here has refuted Dan's original premise which is quite valid. The cultural trail is awesome, but you can't deny the source of some of these funds is coming from the federal tax payer. Would you be happy paying for a similar thing in Cincinnatti?
              • How?
                Supporters of the trail say the trail should generate a total economic benefit of more than $800 million and create more than 10,000 jobs through construction, private-sector investment along the trail and an expansion of tourism.

                How will ^this^ be accomplished by building some pavement? I'm all for the trail, but I really don't see it creating one job.
              • oh brother
                This is great news for the city.

                According to the economic impact study, the Cultural Trail will create 10,000+ jobs and over $800 million in economic impact. Not bad for a $20.5 million federal investment.

                Please read the articles Mr. Gutwein. You may learn something.
              • Grow Up
                Dan...just the kind of thinking that will keep Indpls mired in mediocrity...grow up or move on...Cultural Trail is finally a big idea that will endure, impact all of us and our visitors.
                • trail of tears?
                  government waste at it's best. Let the cities pay for their own cultural trail, why is the Federal govt doing this. If all states did this, $1 billion for cultural trails.... It all adds up, when will we say "no more"? Funny how Greg Ballard is happy to receive the money for Indianapolis at the Federal taxpayer's expense. Seems like this is the crux of our problem. We are none to happy to take the check, tomorrow we will complain to the President about the bill.

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                  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

                  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

                  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

                  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

                  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.