As it awaits federal action on a $75 million grant, IndyGo is moving forward with plans for its Red Line rapid-transit bus line.
On Thursday, the transit system’s board of directors selected a vendor for software needed to manage the Red Line’s construction, and board members also heard updates on several other Red Line-related activities.
IndyGo hopes to start Red Line construction this summer, assuming all the financial pieces come together.
One big piece of the puzzle will be decided Monday, when the Indianapolis City-County Council votes on a proposed 0.25 percent income tax hike for transit. That tax, which would cost $250 per year for a person earning $100,000, would raise at least $54 million annually beginning in 2018, IndyGo says.
The tax money would allow IndyGo to implement the Marion County Transit Plan, which calls for building the Red, Blue and Purple bus rapid-transit lines, plus improving service on other routes by adding buses and drivers.
In order to pass, at least 13 of 25 council members must vote for the tax. Either in public statements or in conversations with IBJ, 12 councilors have indicated they plan to vote “yes.” A 13th councilor, Scott Kreider, told IBJ on Thursday that he will vote for the tax if he can get an answer to a “lingering concern” he has about a requirement that 10 percent of plan funding come from non-tax, non-fare sources.
IndyGo has said it plans to establish a foundation that would raise the money to meet that requirement.
Less certain is the fate of a $75 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration that would pay for most of the cost of building Red Line phase 1, from 66th Street and College Avenue south to the University of Indianapolis.
The Federal Transit Administration recommended the Red Line for grant funding in February 2016, but the grant is tied up in congressional and administrative transition. The federal government is operating under a continuing budget resolution that runs through April 28. This keeps the government running at previous funding levels, but it doesn’t include new spending.
As to when the Red Line grant’s fate will be known, “the answer is: We still don’t know,” IndyGo’s Director of Special Transit Projects, Justin Stuehrenberg, told IndyGo’s board Thursday.
FTA staffers have indicated they expect a new budget could be passed within a few weeks, Stuehrenberg said.
IndyGo President and CEO Mike Terry told the board that he plans to visit Washington, D.C., in early March to visit with members of Congress and sit in on committee meetings.
IndyGo says it could still implement the Marion County Transit Plan if the federal grant falls through, although this would require the agency to take on more debt to finance the project. The project would also take longer to implement and would be slightly scaled back.
In the meantime, IndyGo is moving forward with its Red Line plans. The agency says it must do so because, assuming the Red Line grant comes through, the money will only be released if the project is at the stage of being shovel-ready.
On Thursday, IndyGo’s board approved entering contract negotiations with Florida-based e-Builder, a provider of cloud-based construction and project management software systems.
The e-Builder software would provide a way for Red Line contractors, IndyGo and federal transit authorities to communicate and share documents in the field. IndyGo says it has no current system to handle the amount of documents the Red Line project will generate.
Expected cost for the e-Builder software is $155,525 in first-year setup costs, including training, plus $97,680 in annual licensing costs, which include tech support. That translates to $350,855 for the first two years, which will come out of the Red Line’s budget, Stuehrenberg said.
“It’s a cost that we feel will essentially pay for itself with increased efficiencies and cost control over the life of the project,” Stuehrenberg said.
IndyGo also plans to use e-Builder software for other projects beyond the Red Line, Stuehrenberg said.
In other updates, Stuehrenberg said IndyGo is now working to procure 13 electric buses that will service the Red Line. Those bids should be ready for board consideration in April.
Work also progresses on construction bid packages, and Red Line construction work should begin in July or August.