United States Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx recently delivered some welcome news to proponents of bus rapid transit (BRT) in Indianapolis. "The city is on throes of launching something unique,” Foxx said in April while touring the proposed system's first leg, the 28-mile, $100 million electric bus route known as the Red Line. "Transit can be the difference between someone having a shot and not having one in the 21st-century economy.” Central Indiana has struggled for years to scrape together enough money to expand public transit throughout the metropolitan area under an ambitious $1.2 billion transportation plan, known as IndyConnect. The Red Line is a key component of that plan, eventually connecting Hamilton, Marion, and Johnson Counties with a north-south, electric bus rapid transit route that would stop at local landmarks like the state fairgrounds and the Carmel Arts District. About 100,000 people live within a half mile of the Red Line and 169,000 people work within a half-mile of it, according to the Indianapolis Star. Last year Indianapolis won $2 million from the federal government for an environmental study of the Red Line, adding to a pot of a few million dollars already established by the city and surrounding suburbs. The project is now eligible for a federal construction grant of up to $50 million.
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Indianapolis’ public parks system, Indy Parks, is looking for third parties interested in privatizing some or all of the city’s parks and recreation holdings. The move follows last year’s survey seeking ways to upgrade the city’s 207 parks properties. With a $46 million backlog of needed improvements and just $3.4 million available in the annual budget, Indy Parks could use some help. Deputy Director Jen Pittman told Indianapolis Business Journal the agency’s aware that the request for proposals, issued in November, is broad: “We wanted to cast a wide net to engage the creativity of the community … We’re looking for proposals that will take our parks from good to great.” Any deals larger than $25,000 must be approved by the city-county Council, but the parks board can handle smaller sponsorship agreements itself. Parks board members are appointed by the mayor and members of the City-County Council. One candidate for private operation is the 50-acre World Sports Park, currently under construction. Five multi-use fields at 1313 South Post Road would host cricket and other international sports. Its $6 million price tag is the subject of controversy. Indiana is no stranger to privatization. Indy Parks’ golf courses are already privately operated, as is its Major Taylor Velodrome complex. Nashville, too, has sought private bids to help sponsor its public parks system. Partnership proposals must be in by Jan. 31, 2014.