House panel backs mass-transit funding referendum

A legislative committee on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would let local voters decide whether to fund a $1.3 billion expansion of the mass-transit system in the Indianapolis area.

The Indiana House Roads and Transportation Committee voted 11-1 to support House Bill 1011, introduced by Republican state Rep. Jerry Torr of Carmel.

To fund the Indy Connect plan, a voter referendum is needed to approve a local income tax hike of 0.3 percent in Marion and Hamilton counties.

If it passes, expansion of the transit system would begin in 2015, with completion expected by 2025.

“We are pleased with the bipartisan support from the House committee members who understand the importance of having a world-class transit system in central Indiana,” Ron Gifford, executive director of Indy Connect Now, said in a prepared statement.

The proposed Red Line would run through downtown Indianapolis from Carmel to Greenwood. The Blue Line would run east to west near Washington Street from Cumberland to Indianapolis International Airport. The Green Line, known as the Northeast Corridor, would follow the old Nickel Plate rail line from Indianapolis to Noblesville.

More than 7,800 Hoosiers have signed petitions encouraging lawmakers to allow the referendum, the organization said.

“Today’s overwhelming vote of support is a good first step to developing a modern regional mass transit system,” Mayor Greg Ballard said in a statement. “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.”   

Indy Connect earlier this month launched a campaign that includes commercials that are airing on local television and radio stations informing the public about the proposal.

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