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Mother of girl fatally hit by car urges lawmakers not to block Blue Line bus route

Mother of girl fatally hit by car urges lawmakers not to block Blue Line

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A mother whose daughter was killed by a car three years ago told Indiana lawmakers on Tuesday that Washington Street needs the safety bus-only lanes would bring.

Cassandra Crutchfield and her daughter, Hannah, were hit by a car while walking home from school in September 2021. Hannah died from her injuries. She was 7 years old.

Crutchfield has since become a vocal advocate for traffic safety, particularly along Washington Street. On Tuesday morning, she was among the first of dozens to testify against a measure that would pause construction of IndyGo’s Blue Line Bus Rapid Transit line along Washington Street and other routes from Indianapolis International Airport to the eastern town of Cumberland on the east edge of Marion County.

Crutchfield said she has gotten other measures approved, such as “No Right Turn on Red” signs and more pedestrian signals, but those don’t have the benefit that dedicated bus lanes would.

“Having dedicated bus lanes will slow car speeds and have a traffic calming effect,” she said. “This is vital for all of us who live, work, play and commute along Washington Street.”

The project would convert two of Washington Street’s four lanes to dedicated, bus-only lanes and build stations down the center of the street, as IndyGo did with the Red Line and plans to do with the Purple Line.

East side residents have said the bus-only lanes would force drivers to slow down, thus reducing injuries or deaths among pedestrians.

The bill to pause the Blue Line for one year already passed the Senate earlier this session. Bill author Sen. Aaron Freeman, an Indianapolis Republican, said he would rather see shared lanes.

Some business owners and managers, such as Brian Allen of Builders FirstSource, echoed those comments. Allen said bus-only lanes, when coupled with the center-lane stations, would prevent trucks from making deliveries. Jerry Gilpin, of Gilpin Glass Services, said they would deter customers from patronizing businesses.

“When I’m on the road and I’m looking for something for lunch, I’m not going to do a U-turn and come back somewhere when I’m on the road and I have a limited amount of time,” Gilpin said. “If there was a turn lane, that would be one thing, but making a U-turn would not be an option.”

Freeman’s bill would require state lawmakers to study the issue.

Indianapolis officials say they already have studied the issue extensively.

Interim IndyGo CEO Jennifer Pierce says in the three years after the Red Line was built, crashes dropped by nearly 40% and traffic speeds were slightly higher compared to pre-construction observations. The Red Line also uses dedicated bus-only lanes.

Moreover, Pierce says, any delay in the project would force IndyGo to miss a deadline to apply for a federal grant to help pay for the project. If the Blue Line proceeded after a delay, she said this would force the city government to cover all of the costs.

The bill also would prohibit any new “No Right Turn on Red” signs while lawmakers study that issue as well. Freeman said the bill would not apply to existing “No Right Turn on Red” intersections.

Committee chair Rep. Jim Pressel did not call a vote on the bill on Tuesday. The Republican from Rolling Prairie in northwest Indiana says he plans to call amendments for a vote at the committee’s hearing next Tuesday. That hearing will fall on the last day during which House committees can vote on Senate bills.