College Avenue business owners appeal to White House to stop Red Line

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- One of the driving economic rationales to build the 13-mile-long Red Line from Broad Ripple to downtown to the University of Indianapolis is that the rapid transit system would spur business and development along the route, but business owners on North College Avenue fear IndyGo’s plans would put them out of business, and they’ve appealed to America’s business president to put the brakes on the ambitious transportation project.

Thirty-one signatures accompanied a letter mailed by the College Corridor Business Organization to President Trump, Vice President and former Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the state’s congressional delegation and top congressional members and officials of the Federal Transit Administration calling for a halt to a section of the Red Line that will bisect the city from north to south.

The letter, dated March 17, claims College Avenue south to 38th Street is not wide enough for the dedicated bus lanes and fixed stations envisioned by IndyGo, street side parking will be decimated, customers won’t be able to reach scores of small businesses, vast stretches of pavement will be reduced to one lane in each direction along the heavily traveled corridor, motorists will flood neighborhood streets to avoid congestion, bus ridership is currently minimal, 21 existing bus stops will be eliminated in favor of seven stations and small businesses will be devastated.

The letters may be a last ditch attempt to derail a promised $75 million Red Line construction grant contained in the 2017 federal budget that is yet to be approved by congress. Even if the appropriation is reduced or wiped off the books, other transit grants IndyGo depends upon could be slashed in future Trump proposed budgets.

One of those proposed stations would straddle the middle lanes of College Avenue just south of Scott Goodwine’s College Arms building at East 52nd Street.

“I think it is going to hurt the intersection because of the lack of parking and the massive amount of traffic. The way they’ve got the intersections configured for turns, u-turns, no parking, I’m a little concerned for the tenants to keep up their level of having customers come in,” said Goodwine, who noted his apartment renters and customers of retailers are already at a disadvantage while searching for parking even on nearby neighborhood streets.

Five spots occupied by Blue Indy cars across the street already challenge customers of Anatoly Petrov’s custom framing shop.

“It’s a frame shop. My customers have frames. Some are big, some are heavy, so to walk for a block or two would be a disaster,” said Petrov. “I don’t know if I will be able to survive with a business here.”

Petrov doesn’t expect customers with balky frames and valuable prints to ride the Red Line to his shop.

Through his side windows the Russian immigrant said he watches Blue Indy cars that sit stationary with no customers all day. Within a year, Petrov’s view out his front window could include a Red Line station with his curb and sidewalk reduced at the corner for wider vehicle turns onto 52nd Street.

“They’re going to build a station right here as far as I understand and that means that parking will be eliminated so cars will be just driving right by right here,” said the shop owner. “I feel like its bad for all of us, for me, for this restaurant. Who’s going to sit outside?”

IndyGo has released new renderings of several proposed stations to go along with a route map on its website.

“The route starts at 66th and College in Broad Ripple, it travels up and down College Avenue and then hits 38th Street to travel north and south on Meridian, over to 18th street, stopping at the Methodist complex, and then north and south on Capitol Avenue into downtown,” said IndyGo’s Bryan Luellen who indicated the Red Line will continue through Fountain Square and down Shelby Street to the University of Indianapolis. “The project is currently on schedule and we’re still hoping to break ground this year.”

Even if the federal funding doesn’t come through, IndyGo promises it can construct the Red Line and build out the rest of improvements throughout Marion County with funds raised by a yet-to-be-collected transit tax, though completion of the project will take longer than expected.

IndyGo claims only 15 percent of the parking along College Avenue will be lost, though that number climbs to 50 percent along the Meridian Street and Capitol Avenue corridors, and no Blue Indy stations will be eliminated.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works said it was too early in the planning process to determine the impact the Red Line will have on street parking and whether the city will have to relocate parking meters to new locations or compensate the city’s parking franchise operator for loss of revenue.

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