Indiana hearings draw toll road opposition

| 3/21/2007

A hearing this week generated opposition and debate about a proposed tolled bypass of Indianapolis.

The Indiana House Roads and Transportation Committee has two hearings left concerning the controversial Indiana Commerce Connector, a crescent-shaped bypass around eastern Indianapolis that would link to interstates in six counties.

News agencies around the state reported one of the hearings, which was Tuesday, March 20 in Martinsville, IN, drew hundreds - many armed with signs of opposition and a sharp word or two about the proposal.

Gov. Mitch Daniels has proposed a 75-mile tolled bypass of Indianapolis as a trade-off for keeping the entire length of a proposed extension of Interstate 69 toll-free from Indianapolis to Evansville, IN.

Landowners lined up at the podium to call down the plan, saying the connector would eat up valuable farm land and allow a private developer to profit on tolls.

The Indiana House is considering a bill that has already passed the state Senate as SB1. It would authorize the Commerce Connector - and another proposal called the Illiana Expressway - to be built with private funds. Private investors would then keep the tolls and profit from the roadways for a specified time period.

The House committee has had three hearings so far with two left to go. The final two are scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, March 26, at Franklin College in Franklin, IN; and 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, at Greenfield-Central High School, 810 N. Broadway, Greenfield, IN.

The Indiana Commerce Connector is proposed to assume tolls that would have otherwise been implemented on I-69 as part of Daniels' Major Moves transportation plan signed into law in 2006.

It was that same Major Moves plan that saw private investors from Spain and Australia lease the Indiana Toll Road for $3.85 billion for the next 75 years.

- By David Tanner, staff writer