Indiana governor won’t rule out tolls for I-69 extension

| 3/30/2007

It is being widely reported that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is not ruling out the possibility of tolls for a proposed extension of Interstate 69 from Indianapolis to Evansville, IN. 

The $700 million already secured for the I-69 extension from a $3.85 billion payment to the state for the Indiana Toll Road lease will not be enough. The total project cost has been estimated at $1.78 billion and completion is expected in about 10 years, according to information from the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Daniels had been pushing a proposal to construct a 75-mile tolled bypass around Indianapolis, with revenue from a possible private lease of that bypass to go toward the I-69 plan.

Public outcry against the bypass – dubbed the Indiana Commerce Connector – led to Daniels withdrawing the entire bypass proposal Saturday, March 24.

That put the onus back on the Indiana General Assembly to find funding for I-69. And Daniels, who is up for re-election in 2008, said lawmakers still have a few years to figure it out.

Calls by Land Line to the governor’s office regarding any plans he may have about funding the I-69 extension had not been returned as of Friday afternoon.

The Indiana General Assembly previously approved legislation to allow tolling on portions of the proposed 142-mile I-69 extension, while keeping a portion of it toll-free.

Indiana is one of more than two dozen states seeking or considering seeking private sector funding to build toll roads. In most of those kinds of deals, the private investors keep the toll money for the length of a contract.

The state has already leased the Indiana Toll Road to a Spanish-Australian consortium that will keep the tolls for 75 years while assuming maintenance and operation of the road.

– By David Tanner, staff writer