Toll road issue debated in Indiana

| 8/26/2004

Indiana’s two major candidates for governor continued to squabble Wednesday, Aug. 25, over the issue of tolling highways in the state.

Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan dismissed the idea of turning U.S. Highway 31 between South Bend, IN, and Indianapolis into a toll road.

Republican Mitch Daniels has said he would consider tolls to help pay for needed improvements on the stretch of road and to pay for the planned Interstate 69 extension to Evansville.

During stops Wednesday along U.S. 31, Kernan said both projects were priorities but he was not willing to impose a “new tax” on drivers to pay for them, The Associated Press reported.

He said progress was being made on upgrading the highway using state and federal transportation funds, and as an alternative to tolls, Indiana should continue to seek a larger share of federal dollars. The state now gets back about 90 cents for every dollar paid in federal fuel taxes.

Even a slight increase, he said, could generate as much as $300 million in additional highway dollars each year.

Daniels said Wednesday that toll roads could be a potential solution for funding some highway work, and many tolls would be paid by out-of-state drivers.

Whether it was the right solution for U.S. 31 should be left to transportation officials, he said, but it and other ideas should at least be considered.