SPECIAL REPORT: Plaintiffs to appeal in Indiana Toll Road lawsuit

| 6/5/2006

Plaintiffs in the constitutional challenge of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' "Major Moves" transportation plan and the privatization of the Indiana Toll Road filed an appeal on Monday, June 5.

The plaintiffs are appealing the ruling St. Joseph County Superior Court Judge Michael Scopelitis handed down May 26.

"We're appealing the judge's ruling in that he misapplied the public-lawsuit statute by saying the Indiana Finance Authority is a municipal corporation," plaintiff Steve Bonney of West Lafayette, IN, told Land Line.

Scopelitis said in his ruling that the lawsuit was to be considered "public" under state code, and ordered the plaintiffs to post a bond of $1.9 billion before the case can proceed.

The group of Indiana residents who filed the challenge and the appeal, including Bonney, OOIDA member Randy Nace and a group called the Citizens Action Coalition, told Land Line they expect the case will eventually make it to the state Supreme Court.

Grant Smith, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, said the plaintiffs are enthusiastic about moving forward.

"We didn't want to drop the case here at this stage," he told "Land Line Now."

"These things are always very difficult," he said "There's a lot of money at stake and a lot of political pressure being exerted. We still strongly feel there is a lot of merit to this case and we'll carry it forward as best we can."

Daniels' "Major Moves" transportation plan includes the $3.85 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road to the Spanish-Australian consortium of Cintra-Macquarie for 75 years - something the plaintiffs are fighting against.

Daniels and the Indiana Finance Authority - another defendant in the lawsuit - have already earmarked the revenue from the lease deal to go toward 200 road projects to bridge a growing gap in the state's roads budget.

Cintra-Macquarie officials are scheduled to formally ink the deal with Daniels on June 30. A clause in the lease states that the private investor can walk away from the lease if there is pending litigation.

Whereas the state could not turn a profit on the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road, Cintra-Macquarie projects up to a 12.5 percent return for their investors.

Cintra-Macquarie is the same foreign consortium that leased the Chicago Skyway in 2005 for $1.83 billion, the first ever privatization of an existing toll road belonging to the U.S. interstate system.

The constitutional challenge is being fought with funding chiefly raised by Indiana residents and the trucking industry, including OOIDA.

To learn more about the challenge to the Major Moves plan that allows the Indiana Toll Road lease, visitmajormoves.org online.

- By David Tanner, staff writer