Indiana unveils 10-year road transportation program involving interstate tolls

News AASHTO Journal October 05, 2005
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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and his Department of Transportation Commissioner, Tom Sharp, recently made public a new $10.6-billion, 10-year transportation plan aimed at making the state and nation’s “logistics and distribution capital,” the Kokomo Tribune reported.

The plan calls for the creation of two tolled Interstates and the first hike in fares on the Indiana Toll Road in 20 years to help make up for what is expected to be a more than $2 billion shortfall in the state’s long-term budget without increasing the gasoline tax. The Indiana Department of Transportation has been working for months to develop the plan.

Harkening back to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 signing of the Federal Aid Highway Act, which created the Interstate Highway system, Daniels said that action was “one of the smartest and best investments that America ever made.” Indiana needs to think ahead as well to position its citizens to benefit from transportation commerce, he said.

Daniels said that 30 years ago, citizens of his state had average earnings compared with other Americans. But today, “it’s 90 cents on the dollar,” he said. Infrastructure improvements can make Indiana a more appealing place to do business, he suggested.

“The more creative and aggressive we are, the more we can build and the sooner we can begin reaping the benefits in jobs and dollars that our major moves will trigger.”

Fare increases expected to go into effect next spring are expected to generate $770 million over 10 years. Extending I-69 from Indianapolis to Evansville and another 142-mile section of the interstate in the southwest portion of the state is expected to generate $700 million in revenue, the Indiana Star reported.

Of the $700 million raised, $344 million is expected to cover state highway projects in toll-road counties; $226 million would go to improvements on the toll road; $100 million to grants for local road projects; and $100 million for economic-development projects identified by the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

The cost to travel the entire 157-mile span from Ohio to Illinois would increase from $4.65 to $8 for cars. The cost would rise from $14.55 to $32 for trucks.

Among the projects that will receive priority under “Major Moves” are:

• Upgrading U.S. 31;

• Completing the Hoosier Heartland Corridor;

• Building the “Fort to Port” link from Fort Wayne to Toledo, Ohio; and

• Building two Ohio River bridges.

“We cannot achieve a top-tier economy without a top-tier transportation system,” Daniel said. “To make sure that no Hoosier community is left behind, we must make major moves and bring into being a system of roads, bridges, rail lines, ports and airports second to none.”

Sharp added that for the first time in Indiana Department of Transportation history, projects will be scored through a formula and public input to prioritize construction, saying, “We move our process one step closer to completion today by releasing the list of planned projects, including their estimated cost, scoring priority and planned construction start dates.”

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