Indy, Hamilton County Leaders Launch Renewed Push for Transit Vote
Region seeks authority for referendum on tax hike to fund rail, bus lines
(WIBC.com photo: Eric Berman)
The mayors of Indianapolis, Westfield and Noblesville are leading a full-court press to get legislators to authorize a mass-transit referendum.
Marion and Hamilton Counties need legislative approval for a vote on whether to let the counties levy new taxes to pay for transit links between the two.
The plan envisions a near-doubling of the IndyGo bus system, plus six express-bus lines through Indy and Carmel, and a light-rail connection from Indy through Fishers to Noblesville.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE REGIONAL TRANSIT PLAN
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard says it's an economic development measure. He says a strong public transportation system is among the amenities sought by the young professionals cities seek to lure. And he points to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he says $1.5 billion in new development has sprung up along the light-rail line the city opened in 2007.
The plan envisions a .3% local income tax, but Ballard notes the legislature could set its own parameters for what's allowed. The city would seek federal dollars as well.
Legislators killed the referendum in committee in this year's session. Ballard says the community is more energized this time, and says the fact it's not an election year should help.
Central Indiana Corporate Partnership president Mark Miles says the bitter debate over the right-to-work law left legislators unwilling or unable to focus on the transit plan. And he says backers hadn't done a good enough job explaining the proposal to legislators, a problem he believes has been remedied in the eight months since the session's end.
Backers claim more than 7,000 signatures so far in an online petition drive.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) says the referendum deserves consideration, probably as part of a larger solution to the state's dwindling highway funds.