INDIANAPOLIS — When IndyGo’s board of directors recently voted to scrap a stretch of West Washington Street from the proposed Blue Line project, it eliminated $52 million from its anticipated budget and left west-side drivers and neighbors once again navigating a deteriorated and sometimes dangerous street and mopping up after chronic flooding with no hope of improvement.
The Blue Line retreat put City-County Councilor Jared Evans on the phone to the Hogsett Administration with an urgent plea to find funding somewhere to begin addressing infrastructure problems that have plagued the west-side corridor for decades.
”There are sections of this road that have not been reconstructed back to the dirt since this road was built about 90 years ago,” said Evans.
Mayor Joe Hogsett announced that a quick search of available funding determined that the city can afford to fix road surfaces, stormwater drainage and fund sidewalks in a part of the town where pedestrians are forced to walk along a grassy shoulder alongside speeding vehicles, all without IndyGo’s anticipated Blue Line federal subsidy.
”From Holt Road to Lynhurst Drive, the DPW has committed an estimated $20 million worth of improvements along West Washington. Now that includes new asphalt, long-needed stormwater upgrades, substantial improvements to sidewalks, and it even includes overdue drainage upgrades for the Fleming Gardens neighborhood,” said Hogsett. ”This roughly $20 million project makes use of several creative funding solutions. That includes an initial $12.5 million in Airport Tax Increment Financing District funding.”
Lisa Bentley of Indy Gateway has long sought additional city resources for west-side infrastructure improvements.
”Our community deserves basic amenities such as sidewalks and bike paths, and we do not have those along the corridor,” she said. ”It gives people basic life and family opportunities to ride their bike, to take walks, to walk to work and, of course, to get on transit as needed.”
Traditional bus service along Washington Street west of Holt Road will continue whether or not the Blue Line survives another anticipated Statehouse attempt to alter IndyGo’s plans for dedicated bus lanes from Cumberland to the near west side. Neighbors who fought the proposal for the traffic disruption they claim it would have brought to their community resent that it took the project’s busted budget, which rose from $220 million to $520 million, and the elimination of the west leg connecting to the Indianapolis International Airport along surface streets to grant them long overdue infrastructure upgrades.
”I think it’s amazing that now that funding is all of a sudden available to be able to make the road improvements that have been held hostage to the Blue Line project,” said Rachel Hawkins, owner of Markin Camper Sales, who still has signs opposing the Blue Line displayed on her West Washington Street parking lot and store. “We’re extremely thankful that finally we’re getting some movement on infrastructure improvements through here and thankful we don’t have to sacrifice three lanes of the road to get it.”
Hogsett said he will lobby the Indiana General Assembly in the upcoming session to rewrite the state’s road funding formula to return more of Marion County’s gasoline tax revenue to pay for overdue street repairs.
Construction on the West Washington Street corridor is expected to begin in 2025.