Mass-transit planners unveil proposed route details

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Central Indiana’s mass-transit planners unveiled detailed route information for the first time Wednesday and say a series of open-house meetings in August will be the public’s last chance to request changes before final recommendations go before the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Although state legislation to create a regional mass-transit system failed this year, the MPO still has $2.4 million in grants to complete planning for three rapid-transit lines. (The planning money is a $2 million federal grant, plus a $400,000 match from the city of Indianapolis.)

“When we rolled this plan out two or three years ago, people wanted specifics,” said Anna Tyszkiewicz, executive director of the MPO.

The three rapid-transit routes in the final planning stage are the 25-mile north-south Red line from Carmel to Greenwood, the 24-mile east-west Blue line from Cumberland to Indianapolis International Airport and the 23-mile northeast Green line from Noblesville to downtown Indianapolis.

Detailed maps with stop locations, route alignments and possible alternatives will be available at the Indy Connect website Wednesday afternoon. Nine open-house meetings are scheduled between Aug. 6 and Aug. 22. A schedule is on the website.

The legislation that failed to advance this year would have given Marion and surrounding counties the ability to hold referendums on an income-tax increase to support the $1.3 billion transit plan. Some legislators objected to the potential tax hike, as well as details of the plan—especially the use of light rail on the Green line.

The Green line alone is estimated to cost $483.2 million, but mass-transit advocates say the high price has more to do with the cost of converting the old Nickel Plate rail corridor, whether for light rail or bus-based rapid transit.

Whether to use rail cars or buses on the Green line is one of several questions that planners hope will be settled with more feedback from the public.

The IndyConnect plan calls for bus-based rapid transit on the Red and Blue lines, which means buses would use existing right-of-ways with fixed stations.

A tougher question for downtown Indianapolis could be what path the Green line should take from the end of the old rail corridor at 16th Street to a planned transportation center on Washington Street, across from the City-County Building.

Planners are trying to decide whether to send the line down Massachusetts Avenue or Fort Wayne Avenue, and there are several options within each alternative.  

“The last mile always becomes the more complicated part of the discussion,” said Ehren Bingaman, executive director of the Central Indiana Regional Transit Authority.  

The IndyConnect plan calls for the Red and Blue lines to be built within five years of a regional system’s creation, and the Green line to be built within 10 years.

The MPO is scheduled to vote on the alignments for the Red and Blue lines Dec. 14. A vote on the Green line plan would come next spring or summer.

Because there’s no funding for the system, there’s been no decision yet on the timing of the rollout, or whether the Red or Blue line would be built first, Tyszkiewicz said.

The Legislature kicked the funding question to an interim study committee, which will hold its first meeting Aug. 5.

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