INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — President Barack Obama’s proposed 2017 budget includes a $75 million federal grant that would jump start a bus rapid transit line in Indianapolis.
The grant would pay for construction of the first phase of the Red Line, a 37-mile route from Westfield to Greenwood, in which electric buses would run in dedicated lanes, the Indianapolis Star reported.
The initial leg of the Red Line is 13.6 miles long and would cost an estimated $96.3 million. IndyGo, which would operate the Red Line, would provide $21 million in local matching funds for the line’s first phase, while the next two phases of the line also would require future federal funding.
The grant request, which was outlined Tuesday in the $98 billion federal transportation budget, reflects the federal government’s confidence that the system would work, said Mike Terry, president and chief executive officer of IndyGo.
“This funding decision is a testament to the quality and importance of the Red Line project,” Terry said.
The Red Line is part of a larger transit effort, called Indy Connect, which calls for four high-speed bus routes at an estimated cost of $800 million. It will need taxpayer support in Marion, Johnson and Hamilton counties if it’s to expand.
“It is not going to be easy,” said Anna Gremling, executive director of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization. “It is going to take a lot of educating the public. This will be the first rapid bust transit project in the state.”
The Indy Chamber wants the referendum to be placed on the Marion County ballot in the November general election, Gremling said.
For more than a decade, local transportation officials have been working on a comprehensive mass transit plan for central Indiana, which at times included proposals for rail and light rail.
“I can’t see any other moments that will more directly affect the evolution of our city,” Michael McKillip, executive director of Midtown Indianapolis Inc., an organization that promotes economic development on the north side, said Tuesday as advocates hailed the grant as a critical step in making over the region’s mass transit system. “The Red Line will provide access to jobs, hospitals and groceries.”
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