By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor
A new law in Indiana gives the governor greater authority on toll projects in the state.
Since 2006, state law has mandated legislative approval to build or convert existing highways to toll roads. Gov. Mitch Daniels’ “Major Moves” initiative was highlighted by the authorization to lease the Indiana Toll Road for $3.85 billion. The lease deal with a Spanish-Australian consortium has 70 more years left on it.
Gov. Daniels signed into law a bill to allow the governor’s office and the state Department of Transportation to decide whether to use state money or sign deals with private companies to build toll roads.
Previously SB473, the new law specifies that legislative approval would still be necessary to convert existing roadways to toll roads.
The governor will have sole authority to add toll lanes, including truck-only lanes and high-occupancy toll lanes, to existing roadways as long as free lanes are not reduced.
In 2007, the federal government allotted a $5 million grant to Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio to study adding truck-only lanes along the stretch of Interstate 70 crossing the four states.
The volume of freight movement along I-70 and the enticement for additional truck traffic to access the special lanes are listed as benefits of the project.
“These options make I-70 a reasonable candidate for a tolled facility,” according to a DOT website highlighting the program.
The State Budget Agency will be authorized to conduct a review of any proposed public-private project, but they could not take a vote. Prior to the review, the proposal would have feasibility and economic impact studies conducted. The public could also comment on the issue before the governor announces his decision.
Rep. Ed Soliday said the changes to state law were needed because the existing setup hinders the state’s ability to move quickly in setting up deals with private groups for road work. He said the new law simplifies the process while protecting the public.
“I think we’ve got a lot of controls in place. It’s good for our state. It makes us competitive with bidders,” Soliday stated.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Indiana, click here.
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