|Artist's rendering of Northern Virginia Route 7 BRT|
The Washington Post has a story on a proposed 11-mile BRT in Northern Virginia along Route 7. The BRT with dedicated bus lanes running from the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons to the Mark Center in Alexandria is estimated to cost between $250 and $270 million to construct. That works out to a minimum cost of $23 million and as much as $25 million per mile. The BRT is expected to attract as many as 9,500 new riders per day and cost $18 million annually to operate. IndyGo estimates its annual operating budget will grow $38 million a year to operate up to 3 BRT lines it hopes to build over the next five years, which it says will be financed with a quarter percent increase in the local income tax rate it wants voters to approve at a referendum this November.
Incredibly, IndyGo claims it can construct the Red Line, Blue Line and Purple Line over the next five years for a cost of just $390 million. It says it will rely on federal grants to fund 60% of the capital construction costs, which it admits doesn't include large expenditures that will have to be made by DPW on complimentary infrastructure improvements to support those new BRT lines. None of the numbers touted by IndyGo add up, but neither Mayor Joe Hogsett nor the Indianapolis City-County Council leaders are willing to ask any tough questions of the proponents. The powers that be have decided they're going to get their BRT lines by hook or crook, and they don't give a damn how they're going to pay for it or how much it will cost.
What is clear is that the quarter percent income tax increase won't come close to covering the capital and operating costs of the new projects, and federal grants aren't going to get the project done. The goal seems to be to sink $96 million into the first phase of the Red Line, force through a tax increase to support it and worry later about where the money is going to come from to pay for the true costs of a multi-BRT system that is envisioned. This from the same administration that complains in today's Indianapolis Star that the city has a serious structural budget deficit problem of $50 million. The Indianapolis media is conspiring with the corrupt civic and business leaders behind this latest boondoggle to conceal the BRT's true costs from the public. We can no longer trust our elected officials or our media to speak honestly about anything that's happening in our community.
Gov. Mike Pence and state lawmakers share the blame for this latest fraud being perpetrated on Marion County taxpayers. They wrote a law that set forth certain requirements that had to be met before a local income tax could be levied to support a BRT. IndyGo officiails are already ignoring that law's requirement that fare box receipts make up at least 25% of the operating costs of the BRT. Nobody at the state level is supervising IndyGo's plans to ensure compliance with the state law's compliance, and Mayor Hogsett and City-County Council leaders don't care. They just know that their campaign contributors stand to make a lot of money off the project and that's all that concerns them.
As a side note, I thought readers would like to know who sits on the board of directors which overseas IndyGo. The board members are: Danny Crenshaw-Chairman (President & CEO Crenshaw Insurance); Alan Rowland-Vice Chair (CompTIA Academy, Bus. Dev. Mgr.); Juan Gonzalez (Sr. VP, Key Bank); Tommie Jones (Owner, Jones Property, LLC); Greg Hahn (lobbyist/attorney, Bose McKinney); Mark Fisher (lobbyist, Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce); and Greg Bedan (lobbyist, Third House Group). How do you like the idea that you have three lobbyists on this single board?
These esteemed board members, at least the five present, spent zero time debating the approval of the plan to go forward with raising $56 million a year through a quarter percent increase in your local income tax rate to pay for the additional costs of operating three new BRT lines to be constructed over the next 5 years after hearing a brief 5-minute presentation. Board members were told there was virtually no opposition to the plan other than a couple of negative comments. Since the added operating costs are supposedly just $38 million annually, that leaves a cushion of $18 million a year for additional annual spending from this higher income tax increase. There will be no property tax relief for property owners already taxed to support IndyGo. IndyGo says 15% of the annual costs for the BRT will be used for debt service. About 60% will come from federal grant money and a quarter of the costs will come from local revenue sources.