Now that the Marion County transit tax has been approved, IndyGo has scheduled another round of public meetings on its Red Line bus rapid-transit project.
The meetings will give residents a chance to learn the latest on the construction schedule and designs for the Red Line. IndyGo expects to break ground this year on phase one of the route, which will run from East 66th Street and College Avenue south to the University of Indianapolis.
The first meeting takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at North United Methodist Church, 3808 N. Meridian St. IndyGo staffers will give a brief presentation at 6:15 p.m., and the rest of the time will be spent answering questions.
A similar gathering will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 16 at the University of Indianapolis’ Schwitzer Student Center, Hall A, 1400 E. Hanna Ave.
And on March 22, Central Library at 40 E. St. Clair St. will host two separate meetings: one from noon to 2 p.m., and the other from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
IndyGo staffers will be prepared to answer very “granular” questions, including how the Red Line may impact businesses along the route, said IndyGo Director of Public Affairs Bryan Luellen.
“We’re going to have lots of project staff there that know the front and back of the plans,” Luellen said.
IndyGo set the meetings for this month because it’s now assured that it has the money to pay for the Red Line.
“The local funding creates a level of certainty that we didn’t have before,” Luellen said.
Last week, the Indianapolis City-County Council voted 17-8 to approve the transit tax, which will provide a dedicated funding source for improvements to the city’s bus service. The tax, an additional 0.25 percent income tax, will run about $250 a year for a person who earns $100,000.
Tax collections begin in October, and IndyGo says the tax will generate at least $54.4 million a year starting in 2018. That money will be used to buy more buses, hire more drivers and build three bus rapid-transit lines, the first of which is the Red Line.
Still unknown is whether IndyGo will receive a $75 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration. Federal transit authorities recommended the grant for funding in February 2016, but the grant is tied up in federal and administrative transitions.
IndyGo plans to use the grant to cover most of the cost of building the Red Line. But even if the grant falls through, IndyGo says, it can still carry out its improvement plans. Without the grant funding, improvements would take longer to implement and would be slightly scaled back. The city would also have to issue a larger bond to cover the shortfall.
Until a new federal budget is approved by Congress, the nation is operating under a continuing resolution that keeps funding at previous levels but doesn’t include new spending such as the transit grant. The current continuing resolution expires April 28.
“We fully anticipate that we’re going to have a much better idea of the federal funds within the next four to six weeks,” Luellen said.
IndyGo President and CEO Mike Terry will be in Washington, D.C., next week to participate in the American Public Transportation Association’s annual legislative conference. While there, Terry will meet with legislators to push for the transit grant, Luellen said.
“We’re going to do everything we can to get that funding. We’re expecting it to come through,” Luellen said.