by Thomas P. Healy
The City of Indianapolis Department of Public Works and the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (aka IndyGo) have signed an interlocal agreement [PDF] that lays the foundation for cooperation between the two agencies to implement the Marion County Transit Plan.
“We’ve been using city streets forever,” said IndyGo president/CEO Mike Terry. “But with the implementation of the Marion County Transit Plan we have an opportunity to make major improvements to the city’s transportation infrastructure, so we need to memorialize coordination and collaboration of maintenance and operations.”
Adding a dedicated bus lane to the public right-of-way adds a degree of complexity to the relationship between IndyGo and DPW. The interlocal agreement spells out the details. Take snow, for example. “DPW staff are pros at snow removal. Even though the number of lanes hasn’t changed, IndyGo is going to contribute toward snow removal cost,” Terry said.
And when DPW reopens the Central Avenue bridge over Fall Creek in spring 2019, [PDF] IndyGo will pay for the two-way conversion of Central from Fall Creek to 10th St. “We see it as an opportunity that relates to transit that has benefits to infrastructure,” Terry said. While the City has plenty of plans for such civic transportation projects, it has limited funds. “By IndyGo getting a federal grant, we can do a lot of other infrastructure,” Terry observed.
No one can blame DPW director Dan Parker for being sensitive to street conditions during and after Red Line construction, especially after being walloped by the pothole problem earlier this year. “What we were about to start building with BRT was different than anything else we had contemplated in terms of public transit up to this point,” Parker said. BRT is creating bus-only lanes in streets that the City had paid for with gas taxes, and IndyGo doesn’t pay gas taxes. “IndyGo was going to build in city right-of-way and we wanted to make sure this system was maintained to our standards. That’s the basis of this agreement,” he said.
As an example of unanticipated consequences, Parker cites the Downtown Transit Center that altered IndyGo bus routes downtown. “A lot of bus traffic was rerouted onto Delaware Street, and with the amount of bus traffic now on that street it’s really deteriorated,” he said. There was no agreement in place, so the City bears all maintenance costs. With that object lesson in mind, Parker said the City wanted to make sure the interlocal agreement covered maintenance issues in detail for the new BRT system and the expanded transit network. As a result, IndyGo is going to contribute funds to DPW to pay for repairs. “That was the toughest part of the negotiation,” Parker admitted. He said the figure would be a line item in the IndyGo budget, which the City-County Council has to approve every year. Parker noted, “DPW will reconcile in April and October what those funds were spent on.”
Given the uncertainties, it’s no wonder the agreement states it is a “living document.” “It needs to be,” said IndyGo’s Terry. He points to the stipulation that IndyGo pay DPW $1.5 million annually to cover anticipated expenses. “We don’t have documentation at this point to say where we came up with that number. It may be more and it may be less. That’s why it will be reviewed and reconciled twice a year.”