SPECIAL REPORT: Indiana gov signs road lease; opponents file suit

| 4/12/2006

Truckers and other concerned individuals have filed a lawsuit to challenge the lease of the Indiana Toll Road - a lease that calls for private operation of the highway by a foreign company and, inevitably, higher tolls.

Three groups of Indiana residents filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, April 12, to challenge the constitutionality of the "Major Moves" plan launched by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Major Moves includes a provision to lease the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road to a Spanish-Australian consortium, Cintra-Macquarie, for 75 years. The consortium would collect tolls and profit from the road in exchange for $3.85 billion up front for the state to use on other projects.

The Indiana General Assembly narrowly approved the bill allowing for the lease deal in March. Gov. Daniels signed the lease the same day the opposing lawsuit was filed in St. Joseph County in northern Indiana.

Steve Bonney, who helped launch the challenge through a Web site, majormoves.org, is an Indiana farmer and activist.

"I'm just an average citizen that feels the call of duty most of the time," he said. "I just reacted to this and said now is the time. This is stoppable."

But it's going to take money - up to $200,000 - to challenge the lease and handle future appeals.

Through private donations, and a $10,000 pledge from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Indiana groups met the initial goal of $40,000 to file the lawsuit by the state-imposed deadline.

The group had raised about $65,000 at the time of this posting, Bonney said.

Residents and truckers alike are concerned about higher tolls and the handing over of a state road to a private company. Truck tolls could jump from $14.55 to $32 in 2009, with future increases based on inflation.

To learn more about the challenge of the Indiana Toll Road lease, visit the majormoves.org on the Internet. You can donate to the ongoing legal challenge online or by calling the Citizens Action Coalition at (317) 205-3535 during business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT, Monday through Friday.

- By David Tanner, staff writer

State Legislative Editor Keith Goble contributed to this article. He may be reached atkeith_goble@landlinemag.com.