As part of a plan to subsidize in-state users of the Indiana
Toll Road, the state of Indiana is paying $60 million to the private company
that leased the road last year.
The state set aside the $60 million fund from the $3.85
billion it received in June 2006 when a Cintra-Macquarie partnership known as
ITR Concession Co. assumed operational control of the 157-mile toll road.
The original goal of the fund, an ITR spokesman told Land Line, was to provide a 40-percent
discount to Indiana residents for 10 years during a planned schedule of toll
increases from $4.65 per car to $8.
The trouble is the discounts are going to everybody, so the
fund is being depleted by all non-commercial users, regardless whether they are
from Indiana or another state.
"The ultimate goal of the discount is to give them a
decreased toll for up to 10 years," said ITR spokesman Matt Pierce.
But Pierce said there is currently no procedure or
technology in place to tell where commuters are from. That is about to change,
Pierce said in order to stretch the $60 million pot for
Indiana residents, ITR Concession Co. is working on a way to distinguish
between in-state users - who will pay $4.80 to travel the entire 157-mile route
- and out-of-state users - who will be charged $8. All four wheelers are
currently paying $4.65, Pierce said.
The discount does not apply to any vehicle types above Class
Pierce said the distinguishing factor will be electronic
toll lanes, where toll road users can sign up for an account and use an
electronic transponder to pass through the concession areas.
Indiana users passing through the toll areas would trigger
the electronic tolling system and they would receive the discounted rate, while
out-of-state travelers would not.
By October, Pierce said, the company hopes to have
electronic tolling in place on the entire route. That is when out-of-state
residents will begin paying the $8 toll.
Pierce said the company is hurrying to get electronic tolling
in place so as not to deplete the $60 million fund too quickly. He could not
confirm how much of the fund had been used between June 2006 and the present
"At this point, a greater number of individuals are drawing
against that money," Pierce said. "Obviously the number of people receiving the
discount goes down (in October) which allows us to prolong the life of the
fund, which keeps the locals receiving their discount much, much longer."
The electronic toll system and the discounted rates are
incentives to keep people using the toll road, Pierce said.
The parent company of ITR Concession Co. consists of Cintra
of Spain and Macquarie of Australia. In 2005, the company leased the 8-mile
Chicago Skyway for 99 years for $1.83 billion, which was the first existing
toll road to be privatized. The Indiana Toll Road was second in line, and that
lease is to last 75 years.
- David Tanner, staff