Indiana’s Gov.-elect Mitch Daniels has tapped a retired
businessman to lead a Department of Transportation reorganization expected to
include examining the possibility of selling the Indiana Toll Road.
Calling the department “one of the worst-run agencies in
state government,” Daniels said he believes retired Alcoa executive Thomas
Sharp, 57, is the right man to turn around the agency.
Sharp, of Indianapolis, is a Navy-trained civil engineer
with 25 years of experience in project planning, implementation and plant
management. He spent much of his career overseeing several multimillion-dollar
Daniels and Sharp identified the extension of Interstate 69
between Indianapolis and Evansville as a high priority and said money must be
found for that and other essential projects.
Sharp said establishing more toll roads might be one way to
“We’ve been successful on the Indiana Toll Road, of course,
and we need to be creative and translate our experience in that area to see if
it has a reasonable play to close this funding gap in order to provide more
highways,” Sharp told local media.
Nothing is off the table, Daniels added, including the
possibility of selling the toll way – also known as I-80/90.
The Indiana Toll Road runs 157 miles from Illinois to Ohio
across northern Indiana and handles more than 52 million vehicles a year. Total
revenue for the road is about $85 million a year, with about half of that from
According to the South Bend Tribune, selling the toll
road could net the state as much as $5 billion.
Proceeds from a sale of the road, Daniels said, could fund
Daniels’ plan to sell the toll route comes only months after
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley signed a 99-year lease giving control of the
Chicago Skyway to an Australian and Spanish consortium.
The foreign group, Cintra-Macquarie, paid $1.8 billion in
cash on hand at delivery to operate and maintain the skyway in exchange for the
tolls collected along the 7.9-mile route. The skyway runs between the Indiana
state line to the Dan Ryan Expressway on Chicago’s south side.
Chicago officials plan to use the proceeds for such projects
as new road construction.
“This is happening all over the country and the world,” said
Daniels. “It is just something that we have been slow to imitate here in
Sharp will take over the highway department after Daniels is
sworn into office on Jan. 10.