Mayor's office proposes $135M bond to pay for sidewalks, other improvements

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Mayor Greg Ballard is proposing a $135 million bond to help pay for neighborhood improvement projects.

The mayor's office described funding for the plan as a "$135 million bond combined with other existing transportation funds" totaling over $350 million to pay for sidewalk, street, trail and bridge improvements.

The mayor made the announcement along with Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Lori Miser at the Keenan Stahl Boys and Girls Club on the City's south side.

But there are questions surrounding his new plan and whether the mayor is spending money on the city's most urgent needs.

Troy Avenue is a well-traveled road that runs along neighborhoods where people routinely walk to get around. But no sidewalks can be a recipe for disaster, a point that has drawn frequent complaints from residents.

"When they're five and eight, you don't want them in the street. You'd rather have them on the sidewalk and there are none," said Carolyn Crose, who walks along the streets with her grandchildren every day.

"Sidewalks are one of the primary pathways connecting Indy's families to schools, churches, and other important community centers," said the mayor. "This new initiative will improve our neighborhoods, increase safety, and continue making the transformational investments that make Indy a great place to call home."

Students at the Boys and Girls Club in the 1900 block of East Troy Avenue spearheaded a study on the dangers of walking along the street with no sidewalks. They submitted their findings to the city and got results.

"It's going to make the streets safer for our kids," said Rick Whitten.

"On Monday, City Council leader Maggie Lewis and minority leader Mike McQuillen will co-author a bi-partisan plan to issue a bond on the city's increase in state transportation funding," Ballard said. "That money, when combined with other state and transportation dollars, will fund this $350 million effort over the next three years."

That will mean new sidewalks, bridges, resurfaced roads and bike and walking trails. Ballard started Rebuild Indy in 2010 with $430 million from the sale of the city's water and sewer utilities. Only $120 million remains and $80 million of that sits in a reserve fund. Recently, $6 million has been earmarked for controversial cricket funds.

"That's just a park we are improving. It allows us to attract things we might not otherwise get, which I think is pretty special, frankly," said Ballard.

There are also calls to use money from the Rebuild Indy Fund to increase police protection.

"We are not going to do that. People want us to do that, they're pressuring us to do that. We're not going to do that, because then the fiscal stability of the city just goes away," Ballard said.

The mayor emphasizes with plans to devote more than $50 million alone to sidewalks, 31 bridge projects and more than 200 top priority street resurfacing projects, this is an improvement plan never before seen in the city.

The City-County Council would have to approve the bond in order for the mayor's plan to go ahead. Ballard says if the plan is approved, sidewalk construction could begin next year in some neighborhoods. He also says the investment will go towards "accessible transportation options."

About the funding: 

The City proposes to issue a bond for approximately $135 million based on a projected $7 million increase in state transportation funding. The bond proceeds will be matched with traditional city, state and federal funding sources to provide an estimated $350 million in neighborhood improvements. This bond will be introduced to the City-County Council Monday, August 19, 2014. The measure will be co-authored by City-County Council President Maggie Lewis and Council Minority Leader Michael McQuillen.