After hours of testimony, bill prohibiting dedicated lanes for public transportation passes Senate committee

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2023
Senator Aaron Freeman (R-Indianaolis) discusses his bill blocking dedicated lanes for public transportation. (Photo taken from a stream of the meeting)

By BENJAMIN THORP

A senate committee voted Thursday to approve a bill that prohibits dedicated lanes for public transportation. 

Those opposed to the bill say it could kill Indianapolis’ proposed Blue Line bus rapid transit system. The 24-mile-long lane with service from Cumberland to the Indianapolis International Airport runs through mostly dedicated lanes.

In over two hours of testimony, many business owners along the planned Blue Line raised concerns that it would hurt their businesses.

Lisa Bennett is the owner of Black Sheep Gifts in Irvington.

“I feel that dedicated bus lanes, especially through our historic neighborhood, will be a detriment not only to our businesses but to our community as a whole,” she said.

A member of the Indy Chamber of Commerce has indicated they are pursuing a program to assist businesses impacted by the construction of the Blue Line.

Republican Senator Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis) has authored similar bills in previous sessions.

“But the citizens of Indianapolis do not deserve dedicated lanes that will so screw up their travel that it is almost going to force people to ride a bus in Indianapolis,” he said.

IndyGo officials defended the Blue Line and underlined that the bill would upend years of planning.

Jennifer Pyrz is the Interim President and CEO of IndyGo. She said the bill would effectively kill the Blue Line.

“Until the plan is fully implemented we are not delivering what 60% of voters asked for when they approved the Marion County transit plan,” she said.

Pyrz said the bill could threaten over one hundred million dollars in federal funding otherwise coming to the project. The Blue Line is expected to cost roughly $390 million.

“We are too far along to go backwards,” she said.

Senator Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) called the bill bad public policy.

“This is bad government interfering with local government doing what is best for its citizens,” he said.

The bill would not impact existing dedicated lanes but would block any future lanes – not just in Indianapolis, but statewide.

John Metzinger is the CEO of Fort Wayne Citilink, which he said is considering dedicated lanes for its public transportation projects.

“We believe the state should not overrule local decisions in making decisions about how public transit should operate in communities,” he said.

The bill passed 7-5 mostly along party lines and now heads to the full Senate.

Contact WBAA/WFYI reporter Benjamin Thorp at bthorp@wfyi.org.