Construction has begun on Post Road in Lawrence, part of a $188 million IndyGo project to create a rapid transit line from downtown Indianapolis to the Ivy Tech Community College campus on 59th Street, cutting the wait time between buses serving Lawrence from about an hour to only 15 minutes.
When it’s complete in fall of 2024, the Purple Line will offer amenities similar to the Red Line, which was the first IndyGo rapid transit project built starting in 2019.
Carrie Black, director of communications with IndyGo, said new services will include 60-foot-long articulated electric buses.
“So, this is reducing emissions in the community — reducing the harmful emissions,” she said. “It’s a larger bus that can accommodate more people. (The project) also takes care of the (bus) stations and all of the amenities that come with it, including the covered seating, and the fare payment machines there on the platforms. Those platforms also have a system in them that when there is freezing, when there is ice or snow on them in the wintertime, we can activate this system that melts the ice and the snow to promote safety.”
The bus stations, which will replace simple bus stops with limited seating and shelter, will be similar to the existing Red Line stations, with raised platforms that allow for level boarding and improve accessibility for people with mobility limitations and people who use wheelchairs. The stations are also well lit and provide real-time monitors so riders know when the next bus is on the way.
Black said the Purple Line serves a 15-mile route from downtown Indianapolis to the Ivy Tech campus. It’s the second-most traveled route, she said, and potentially serves about 58,000 people who live within walking distance of the line. Most of those people are minorities, she said, and about 30 percent fall into the low-income bracket.
“So, we know that there are a lot of people that will be able to utilize the Purple Line. We know that they will use this to primarily get to work, and we know that these people live in primarily disadvantaged neighborhoods,” Black said, adding that for those in the core Indianapolis area, the new Purple Line will cut wait times down to about five minutes.
The project will benefit more than transit customers, though.
Black said half of the project budget goes toward infrastructure improvements.
“We are paving roads. We are building sidewalks in areas where there are none, (and) improving the sidewalks in areas where some do exist,” she said, “We’re adding a multi-use path for people to bike and walk. We’re improving drainage. In some areas along this route, the drainage was a huge problem where water would pool and pond on the roads and cause significant potholes. So, we’ve gone through and partnered with Citizens Energy — who had had plans of getting in and taking care of this problem eventually — we’ve partnered with them to be able to go ahead and take care of that sooner rather than later. So, I think even those who don’t ride the bus, they don’t use transit, those driving through the area are going to see the benefits.”
City of Lawrence Director of Engineering Sri Venugopalan, who formerly worked for IndyGo, said that when the new rapid transit line is in place, it will be much easier for students who go between the Ivy Tech campuses in Indianapolis and Lawrence, and more people will have access to Fort Harrison State Park. He said the current frequency of buses to Lawrence is challenging, with wait times of up to an hour. Cutting that down to 10 or 15 minutes will make a big difference.
“This is going to be a huge help for them because right now they have to wait a really long time for the next bus,” he said. “They have to plan that well in advance. So, with Purple Line being a short interval, it’s definitely going to help a lot.”
Venugopalan said construction happening now on Post Road involves installing new storm drainage infrastructure. The project later will include a complete reconstruction of Post Road, adding the elevated center-line stations, and creating a dedicated lane for Purple Line buses. He said the dedicated lane should not significantly affect traffic.
Venugopalan said engineers analyzed traffic in the area and came up with plans to minimize impact.
“They are going to modify signal timings and all that stuff to make sure that traffic still flows,” he said, noting that there is always concern about taking a lane for buses. “Of course, it’s going to impact it, but it’s not going to impact it for minutes. It’s going to be minimal — a few seconds of delay here and there.”
And, he said, everyone will benefit from faster, more-reliable transit service coming into the heart of Lawrence.
For more, visit indygo.net/purple-line.
Next up: Blue Line
The Blue Line is the last of three rapid transit projects planned by IndyGo, but the project is on hold for now because costs have skyrocketed in recent years,
According to the IndyGo website, estimates pre-COVID-19 pandemic showed an overall cost of about $220 million for the 24-mile Blue Line project. Estimates now show a total cost of more than $500 million.
The department is evaluating the project and working with the Federal Transportation Administration to come up with next steps.
The Blue Line serves Washington Street between Cumberland Road and the airport.
The Red Line was the first rapid transit project completed by IndyGo. It runs 13 miles through the heart of Indianapolis.