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IndyGo transit system sees future threatened in Senate

A bill that would limit funding for Indianapolis’ IndyGo transit system passed a Senate committee Thursday and will now go to the full Senate for further consideration.

Senate Bill 141 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee in a 7-5 vote. The vote was originally tied, 6-6, when Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, changed his vote in favor of the bill. Boots had argued the bill involved issues that should be resolved in the courts but, in changing his vote, said he believes it is a decision that should be made by the full Senate.

Senate Bill 141 would withhold 10% of local income tax revenue from the transit system and put a hold on any future IndyGo projects until the revenue requirements set in previous legislation are met.

That means millions of dollars may be withheld in 2022 from the public transportation company if it cannot meet the amount required. This would harm the plans for expansion of its bus rapid transit system with the Purple Line, planned for construction in 2023, and the Blue Line, projected for 2025.

The bill also says that 25% of IndyGo’s funding must come from fares made off the current Red Line and other routes.

This is not the first time there has been debate on the subject in the Senate. In 2016, voters supported a referendum to expand public transportation in Indianapolis with a tax increase. SB 141 says those tax revenues could be withheld if IndyGo does not meet funding requirements.

Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, has suggested that IndyGo Blue Line lanes that will run along Washington Street in part of his district be converted to shared traffic lanes.

“There are 5,000 people in my district who live along that corridor and 150 businesses between the short road from Holt Road to Lyndhurst, and they’ve all signed a petition saying they don’t want fixed lanes. They don’t want to hurt IndyGo. They want shared lanes,” Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, said in support of SB 141 Thursday morning.

Other committee members, like Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, disagreed, arguing that it is not the General Assembly’s place to get involved in local traffic affairs.

“This bill in its current form hurts IndyGo and it hurts the citizens of Indianapolis,” he said.

Taylor Dixon is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.