A group pushing for development of a $1.3 billion regional mass-transit system in two central Indiana counties renewed their push last week, urging lawmakers to approve a voter referendum.

The referendum, which requires the General Assembly’s approval, would ask voters in Madison and Hamilton counties whether they would pay a higher income tax to finance a transit system. The group, called Indy Connect Now, is made up of a coalition of business leaders, elected officials and higher-education institutions.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard attended the group’s rally last week, saying an improved transit system is necessary if the city is going to compete with cities like Minneapolis, Denver, Charlotte and Salt Lake City. The plan calls to raise local income taxes in the two counties by 0.2% to pay for the 10-year, $1.3 billion project. It would feature five rapid transit lines along several routes, including from downtown Indianapolis, and call for more frequent bus service.

A bill that would have allowed the referendum died in committee last January.

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