State lawmakers table IndyGo Blue Line amendment

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The House Ways & Means Committee takes action on an IndyGo Blue Line amendment. (IBJ photo/Leslie Bonilla)

IndyGo’s plan for a dedicated-lane Blue Line bus route has survived another day in the Indiana Legislature.

The House Ways and Means Committee on Monday tabled an amendment that would have conditioned the removal of some public transportation funding requirements on compliance with new lane minimums—which would’ve involved redesign and land acquisition over several miles of the proposed 24-mile route and thrown the plan’s financial feasibility into question.

Republican Rep. Bob Behning’s amendment would have allowed revenue-matching requirements for public transportation projects to expire upon substantial completion—as long as IndyGo maintained two lanes, both ways along certain parts of Washington Street. The Blue Line’s design and federal funding for the line require a dedicated bus lane that would be created by whittling down Washington Street’s four lanes. 

Behning told reporters that the measure was an attempt to “promote public transit” by preserving a four-lane arterial road for drivers and adding the bus lane for public transit users.

Advocates, meanwhile, objected to the measure’s inclusion as a last-minute amendment on an education bill, Senate Bill 290.

“We had over 150 meetings on this plan. We voted resoundingly to fund this plan and to give IndyGo the authority to advance it,” said Democratic Rep. Carey Hamilton. “And for us to come back in the final hour here, on an education bill before Ways and Means, is just not how it’s supposed to work.”

A technical amendment eliminated the lane requirement for a chunk of road on Indianapolis’ east side, in Irvington. But committee members and witnesses went back and forth over another three lines, attempting to clarify language that would have big consequences depending on the interpretation.

One understanding applied the lane requirement to a three-mile section on the west side, near the Indianapolis International Airport, while the other included the entire 24-mile route.

“That [difference] is significant,” said IndyGo CEO Inez Evans, who said a whole-route interpretation was not part of her discussions with Behning. “That is significant property acquisition and can be cost-prohibitive to this project, and have the repercussions of actually stopping this project.”

The smaller section alone, she said, which would require four lanes open along Washington Street between South High School Road and Holt Road, plus a bidirectional space for buses, would affect eight businesses and add $12 million to the project. The current plan for the Blue Line, she said, involved no eminent domain condemnations.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown, a Republican, said the Legislative Services Agency had clarified that the lane requirement would apply only to the smaller section, and would be noted as part of the technical correction.

But Democratic Rep. Ed DeLaney motioned to table the entire amendment, which Brown said at first was out of order. Brown took a voice vote, then called division and asked for a show of hands. More than a dozen legislators, including members of both parties, voted to table the amendment.

The lane requirements could still come back on the floor of the House.

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24 thoughts on “State lawmakers table IndyGo Blue Line amendment

  1. It is a about time some former state highways that cut through urban Indianapolis go on a diet. I suspect traffic loads peaked on Washington Street about 1970.

    1. Most proponents of the BlueLine don’t realize that the busses have less than 10% ridership, but they will inconvenience 90% of the vehicles. It is a complete waste of federal and local taxpayers dollars. It was terribly planned and executed on the northside, and will be as well on the east and west side. This is not progress but ignorance. All the stoplights on the major east/west and north/south roads should be timed. This would cut the carbon footprint and pollution so much more than buying Chinese electric busses. Just saying….the truth.

    2. Pat, frequent and fairly fast public transportation is a necessary component of any mid- to large-size city. I’d agree that some of the decisions on Indy’s design of the Red Line are debatable, but I’ve driven College Avenue & Meridian Street for years, and I haven’t experienced any major inconveniences since the Red Line began operation. In fact, with less uncontrolled turning movements, it seems that vehicle traffic often flows a little better overall, even if cars can’t always drive as fast with only one lane northbound. I also haven’t experienced problems driving on the Meridian portion, although I did have to drive around the block recently because I didn’t properly plan my left turn in advance.

      Could Indy do better at synchronization along many of its roadways? Probably, yes. However, I’m not an engineer, but I don’t think it’s possible to synchronize traffic lights to be green in sequence for two directions at the same time.

  2. If Indy wants to grow and out perform its peer cities, Indy has to do a better job of preparing for growing pains and a real mass transit solution that’s fit for the 21st century and beyond.Im afraid there’s way too many small town baby boomers still making decisions for a state that’s getting YOUNGER and moving more towards a progressive Indiana and what Indiana could look like in the future.Indy has a bad habit of playing catch up after other states have leap frog ahead in every aspect.

  3. I’m very happy the amendment was tabled! Of all the transit plans to sabotage, the blue line makes the least sense.

    The city and state have invested heavily into our fantastic airport and convention center. Not having a dedicated rapid transportation line between them is like shooting ourselves in the foot. Airport to city-center transit is a standard amenity for practically every mid-to-major city across the globe. In addition to cabs and car rentals, modern travelers expect a direct, fast transit option to a city’s center. (They also expect a city of our size and stature to have an adequate transit system they can use to explore and traverse the city, but that’s another issue.)

  4. Glad to see the amendment fail. I think maybe Rep. Behning should consider retirement it seems he’s completely unaware of the trends over the last couple of decades toward urbanization.

  5. Visitors to our city will love riding riding a bus from the airport! So retro, so 20th century!
    They hate jumping into an Uber that takes them directly to their destination. Much more fun to wait on a bus that takes you to a bus terminal where you can get your Uber.

    1. Yeah most cities have this thing called “Trains” but Indiana doesn’t know what those are. At least a bus is halfway!

    2. I was at the airport on Sunday night and an Uber to get home was $120, Lyft was $60, but the Blue Line will go through my neighborhood and the fare is $1.25. I’ll take the bus over Uber/Lyft any time.

    3. Indianapolis knows what trains are. They’re just prohibited from thinking about them.

      But, yes, an express train from the airport to the downtown area would be yet another tool in the arsenal for our convention business.

      We already have a walkable downtown that visitors gush about … but we make them spend big on cabs/Ubers to get there, or they have to rent a car that they park for the bulk of their visit. How’s that make sense?

    4. And oh yeah, there’s already a train line that runs from union station all the way to the north side of their airport.

    5. Joe B. The only people gushing about downtown Indianapolis are locally based propagandist pushing that garbage to the locals.

    6. Yes, let’s tear out downtown and go back to the 1960’s. Blow it all up and be India-no-place again. Divest the investment made over the past 40 years in downtown.

      Here’s the reality – we host conventions and sporting events. People can come into town for a few days, walk everywhere, and have a good experience. It’s worked well for GenCon and PRI and the NFL combine and a bunch of other conventions. It keeps restaurants going and hotels occupied.

      Spending money within reason to support that is smart, be that trains to get people downtown or low barrier shelters to get the homeless off the streets.

      And, a reminder that the taxpayer funded infrastructure of Carmel and Fishers doesn’t exist if they’re not suburbs of Indianapolis.

  6. Having direct transit to the Airport would be amazing. It’s funny to know it’s completely normal and common sense for other major cities to have this. Indianapolis is so far behind on public transit.

  7. “Mass” transit is now a failure in all but two Instances in American cities. Like all things “mass” it was a terrific idea at the turn of the 20th century — from 1899 to 1900. It is completely embarrassing to be advancing the concept in 2022. The digital age destroyed the entire concept of “mass” — mass production, mass communication etc. (How many cable channels did you have when cable gave way to streaming. Indianapolis is in the grip of a sad and ignorant collection of urban planners who yearn for a day long gone. Covid has only accelerated the destruction of their ancient paradigm. To see it for yourself, go take a ride any day on the “Rapid” transit Red Line — the most expensive and neighborhood destroying boondoggle of all time.

    1. That is a lot of incorrect statements disguised as facts….

      Apparently Denver, NYC, Chicago, Cleveland, etc are not American cities?

    2. Huh? The digital age didn’t kill any of that. Heck the internet is the most powerful mass communication tool ever created. What the digital age has done is revealed the need for diversity and allowed for more specialization. In this age we need diverse methods of production, diverse means of communication and yes diverse means of transportation. This is an inclusive age where a new idea doesn’t mean the death of another.

    1. According to what metric? For something to be economically viable the economic benefits need to outweigh the costs. If what you’re talking about is simply about ridership fees vs cost I think that’s an entirely dishonest approach.