Light rail plan appears doomed

October 31st, 2013 at 3:38 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The ongoing mass transit debate at the Statehouse will lead to a new proposal that will concentrate on improved bus service.  Visions of light rail service to Hamilton County are evaporating quickly.

A video on the Indy Connect website (indyconnect.org) spells out the hopes of transportation planners in Central Indiana.  They would still like to seek a light rail line from downtown Indianapolis to Noblesville.

But there’s a different message being delivered in a study committee formed by the General Assembly and transportation planner Ron Gifford of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership gets it.  When asked if light rail is out of the question, he responded quickly by saying simply, “Sounds like it.”

At least one committee member is still a fan of high speed trains.  “One of the great advantages of a light rail, which we’re all trying to downplay,” said Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis,) “is experience shows if you put in a rail line you’re not likely to move it next week.”

But the $1.3 billion price tag for light rail service is hard to sell.  “Part of our job,” said Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville,) “is to say what can we afford in this arena?”

The alternative is already there on the website.  It’s a concept known as bus rapid transit, buses that resemble trains operating on designated lines.

“We’re going to see that bus rapid transit is the most economical option for that corridor,” says Gifford, “and that will be the recommendation at the local level anyway.”

The good news for transportation planners is that there is a consensus that improvement is a must.

“The mass transit system, unfortunately, in Indianapolis does not serve the people,” said Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood,) “in the way I think we would all like it to.”

The mass transit study committee will develop recommendations in November or December.  The goal is to have the General Assembly approve the recommendations next year, even though it has rejected a mass transit plan in each of the last three years.

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