Mass transit won't see ballot in 2014

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a bill earlier this year that would put mass transit funding up for referendum – but it won't happen this year.

The goal is a lofty one that would involve six counties and seek to alleviate commuter congestion. Ultimately, it's voters who will decide whether the plan gains legs.

"Obviously each county that would be involved would work on their plan. But then the key is connecting all of the systems together to make sure they work in a regional fashion," said Marc Lotter, spokesman for Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's office. "So, there's a lot of partners, a lot of moving parts to this. That's one of the reasons why it's just not feasible to do a vote on a referendum in 2014. The next opportunity for a vote will be in 2016, but there's a lot of work to do between now and then."

Among that work is nailing down federal funding, as well as bringing in more public input and educating voters on what they're voting for and how it will be paid for.

Lotter said Ballard doesn't want to rush a plan that will affect Central Indiana for decades to come. Thus, he said, a vote on mass transit in 2014 was never really the plan.

"Obviously we wanted to have the ability to have the referendum. Obviously we have that now through this legislation. Now the key is to get the plans finalized, get the engineering, the paperwork, and the studies all done," Lotter said. "And then when everyone's ready we can roll out a complete package to the voters and hopefully they'll approve it."

Although the bill the governor signed is a big step forward for the mass transit discussion, it does not, notably, include any plans for light rail – a bone of contention for many mass transit supporters.

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