Councilman to request federal investigation of Red Line project

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- City County Councilman Joe Simpson, a longtime critic of the Red Line, said he will request the Federal Transit Administration launch an investigation into IndyGo and its ambitious plan to connect the south and north side of Indianapolis with a revolutionary electric bus rapid transit system.

“I think an investigation from the Transportation need to come out here and look at these streets,” said Simpson, who is most concerned about IndyGo’s public safety plan for the Red Line route. “It's the only way we’re gonna get any kind of relief out here for the taxpayers.”

The public safety report was apparently updated and ready for publication this past January.

The plan details emergency vehicle operations and interactions with the Red Line, its curbside, its in-street loading stations and its 60-foot long articulated electric buses all along the 13-mile route from Broad Ripple on the north, through downtown Indianapolis and on to Fountain Square and the University of Indianapolis to the south.

Included in the report are sketches that detail emergency vehicles literally sharing dedicated lanes with the buses, sometimes in head-on configurations, predicting that drivers and first responders will jockey with motorists and other vehicles for scarce roadway during crisis response incidents.

Along North College Avenue, where Red Line bus stops are being constructed in the center lanes of the pavement, small berms will separate north and south bound traffic, and emergency vehicles would either have to mount that berm to cross the street or make left turns at the next available intersection.

“Let's talk about the safety plan,” said Simpson. “Let's talk about on 42nd and College. You got a terminal sitting there on the north end of the station. How fire trucks gonna come out of there? Only thing you get from IndyGo is fire trucks can jump the curb. Fire trucks don’s jump the curb. They tear the bottom.

“We may end up having to file an appeal to Transportation because you look on College, anybody with a right mind know they didn’t do a public safety plan.”

IndyGo said its public safety plan was written with input from IMPD, IFD and IEMS.

“IndyGo has submitted safety documentation which has been reviewed and approved by the Federal Transit Administration — a condition of funding through the FTA,” said an IndyGo spokesperson. “We have worked alongside local public safety contacts to synthesize several aspects of operating the Red Line, including vehicle interaction plans.”

Red Line construction continues along Virginia Avenue, through the heart of Fountain Square, along an even narrower path of pavement than North College Avenue approaching Broad Ripple.

Often times, vehicles back up, clearing the traffic signal at the fountain plaza where five streets come together along the current Red Line construction route.

“Fountain Square in general is already known as not the greatest for traffic when it's rush hour time,” said Patrick Burtch of Square Cat Vinyl. "I think that’s more of the issue, the general infrastructure of the neighborhood streets, than adding a Red Line to it. I don’t think it's going to necessarily change it that much.”

One business owner who didn’t want to be interviewed sent an email to city county councilors Sunday complaining about the daily construction delays, sidewalk and road closures and what he claimed was IndyGo’s lack of communication to the merchants.

IndyGo sends out regular updates for construction, repaving and lane and road closures all along the route every Monday morning.

Dane Smith was applying artwork to the upper arm of a client at Fountain Square Tattoo, where a new bus shelter will obscure the sign on his building.

“It hasn’t been too bad,” he said. “The only thing about Red Line construction that’s been a little frustrating is the timing. They’ve been promising that they would be done at a certain time and they haven’t. It was supposed to be done at the beginning or end of April and now we’re into June and it's still not done yet.”

Smith is resigned to an enhanced Red Line bus stop at the entrance to his shop.

“Bigger, better bus stop, which I hope more people use, and I hope the quality of the people using it, too, is not just like your typical vagrants or whatever. Hopefully, it's like normal people.”

IndyGo is expecting construction to be complete by mid-summer with buses running on the route in early September.

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