SPECIAL REPORT: Governor tries to stop Indiana Toll Road plaintiffs

| 4/25/2006

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels believes the challengers to the Indiana Toll Road lease should cough up a $3.8 billion bond for their lawsuit to proceed. That's equal to the price a foreign consortium is paying for the right to profit from the toll road for 75 years.

Daniels filed a motion requesting the bond on Monday, April 24, to try to block a lawsuit filed by the Citizens Action Coalition. The coalition's lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the toll road lease to a Spanish-Australian investment group. The group contends that the Indiana Constitution requires all proceeds from public works be used to retire public debt.

The governor, who is earmarking the $3.8 billion from the Cintra-Macquarie investment group for other road projects in the state, wants the plaintiffs to prove their lawsuit has merit or post the bond to continue.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 11 in Circuit Court in St. Joseph County.

OOIDA Member Randy Nace is among those who filed the challenge to the toll road lease. He has previously told Land Line that the privatization of interstates should not be allowed.

"It's the infrastructure of our country," he said. "It's not just an Indiana issue, it's a national issue. What makes this a powerhouse economy is the interstate highways."

The plaintiffs, led by Nace and the Citizens Action Coalition, have raised $75,000 to challenge the toll road. They say the case, including appeals, could cost up to $200,000.

Steve Bonney of West Lafayette, IN, helped launch a Web site for the cause, majormoves.org. Bonney said the Daniels motion would be a lawsuit killer if the judge approves it. He called the governor's motion an attempt to stop citizens who stand in the way of "Major Moves," the governor's 10-year building plan.

"It's a smoke screen, I believe," he told "Land Line Now" on Tuesday morning. "In our complaint, we have listed seven instances of Indiana violating the Constitution. We don't think that is 'without merit.'"

Major Moves is the transportation package that Daniels signed into law earlier this year that includes the privatization option for the toll road.

The highest bidder on the lease, Cintra-Macquarie, is the same foreign investment group that operates a 99-year lease of the Chicago Skyway.

Cintra Concessiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., is also on paper to see a 600 mile portion of the Trans-Texas Corridor come to light.

- By David Tanner, staff writer