An Indiana legislative panel has delayed a vote until next
week on legislation that would clear the way for two privately run toll roads.
Sen. Thomas Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, chairman of the Senate
Homeland Security, Transportation and Veterans Affairs Committee, called off a
vote Tuesday, Jan. 23, after legislators, businesses and concerned citizens
raised several questions about a bill that would allow two proposed projects to
be built as privatized toll routes.
Touted by Gov. Mitch Daniels, the bill - SB1 - would allow a
private group to build and operate a toll route through five counties
neighboring Indianapolis. The proposed 75-mile Indiana Commerce Connector would
link Interstate 69 northeast of the city with Interstate 70 to the southwest.
The state would get money upfront and use it to help build
the planned extension of I-69 through southern Indiana.
Sponsored by Wyss, the bill
would also remove the state's authority to collect tolls along a portion of
I-69. In return for that assurance, Daniels' proposed connector project could
be tolled. Tolling authority for I-69 from Evansville to Martinsville was part
of the Republican governor's Major Moves legislation from 2006 that included
privatizing the Indiana Toll Road.
Wyss said he supports the connector because it will keep
I-69 toll-free for the entire length of the route from Evansville to
Another provision in the bill would authorize the proposed
Illiana Expressway to be privately funded. The 63-mile, limited-access route is
intended to relieve congestion in northwestern Indiana and near Chicago.
Bill proponents said at the Jan. 23 meeting the projects
would relieve congestion and help the economy, WSJV-TV in South Bend, IN, reported.
Opponents countered that it was unclear how much economic
growth the proposed projects would generate and whether they would
significantly reduce traffic on surrounding highways. Others warned about
giving legislative approval when the exact routes of the roads and other
details have not been decided.
Indiana Department of Transportation officials said they are
open to changes in the bill that would allow legislative review of the final
plan, WYFI-TV in Indianapolis
There were enough questions raised to delay a vote on the
measure until a scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 30. At the meeting,
amendments also could be offered to address concerns.
- By Keith Goble,
state legislative editor
Editor's note: The
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has issued a Call to Action on this
topic. To read it, click here.