Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Westside

November 8, 2012

Connecting Central Indiana

Ehren Bingaman seeks better living through mass transit

(Continued)

If central Indiana is lagging behind, it's mainly because of funding. Many communities are struggling to even keep up with road maintenance, putting mass transit investment low on the priority list. Indiana's gas tax hasn't been raised in some 20 years or adjusted for inflation. Better fuel economy isn't keeping that coffer full either.

For the start of the next General Assembly, CIRTA's asking state legislators to consider a law that would allow individual counties to hold a referendum asking its residents whether they're willing to pay three-tenths of 1 percent of their income to fund more mass transit. If approved some counties may vote yes, others no, but one county shouldn't have the ability to hold up anyone else. Another aspect to the plan is that any tax dollars from a county earmarked for mass transit stays in that county.

Bingaman is confident the proposal will get due consideration by lawmakers. He cites a growing number of advocates supporting the plan. More than 120 organizations - private, public, and non-profit - have gone on record to back it. Another 7,500-plus citizens have signed a petition in favor.

It's been on the table a while, but Bingaman says it didn't get an honest evaluation in the last General Assembly because it got entwined with the labor dispute that virtually overshadowed everything else in the session.

"I don't know any public works projects that have had to survive the scrutiny transit has in central Indiana," Bingaman said. "We just keep coming back. By the time we get done, I think we will have been fully validated."

Ultimately he thinks they'll also be able to overcome the notion that transit doesn't pay for itself.

"I don't know any infrastructure that necessarily does," Bingaman said. Toll roads maybe, but they still require subsidizing. Same with interstates, which were built with funds from the Department of Defense. The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership conducted a benefit-cost analysis on the Indy Connect plan. It resulted in a return rate of 11.7 percent.

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