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Leaders backing central Indiana transit bill

– The leaders of 18 central Indiana cities and towns have formed a coalition to push a bill that seeks to expand regional bus service and create a commuter rail line.

The bill written by state Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, would create a nine-county transit district and allow ballot questions in Marion and Hamilton counties on whether to raise local income taxes to expand mass transit.

Those taxes would help fund a proposed 10-year, $1.3 billion plan that calls for a commuter rail line from Noblesville to downtown Indianapolis and doubling bus service in the Indianapolis area.

Westfield Mayor Andy Cook, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and other members of the Regional Council of Elected Officials began meeting four years ago.

The transit bill died in the last legislative session, but another local group, the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, believes it has a stronger chance in the session that begins Monday as more Republican lawmakers come aboard.

Ron Gifford, the executive director of the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, told the Indianapolis Business Journal it’s important to show the bill has support beyond Indianapolis and the Hamilton County town that would see the immediate benefits.

“All the planning we’re doing today in building out the backbone of the system will be critical to those communities,” he said. “I think they will be very public and very vocal about this,” he said.

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