What's next for Indiana road funding?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/11/2014

A mere eight years after then-Gov. Mitch Daniels leased the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years, state lawmakers are searching for ways to generate transportation revenue.

The Indiana House approved a bill that would require the state Department of Transportation to contract with a third party to come up with alternative funding to pay for maintaining state highways.

“We are trying to take a measured, comprehensive approach to considering what options or mechanisms are available to address the state’s infrastructure needs,” Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said in a news release.

Advancement of HB1104 to the Senate comes as state lawmakers have been unable to find funding sources as Indiana’s “Major Moves” initiative comes to an end. State officials have said that something must be done because money remaining from the $3.85 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road is mostly spent or due to be spent for specific projects.

As a result, Indiana must again rely on the state’s 18-cent-per-gallon fuel tax to get needed transportation work done.

The House-approved bill would require INDOT and the third party to spend at least two years studying alternative funding options.

Soliday said some of the alternatives include a flat per-vehicle fee, tolls, state gross retail tax on motor fuels, diesel tax and gas tax.

He cited more fuel efficient vehicles, higher fuel costs and alternative fuels as reasons the state needs “to explore other, more effective options to keep our roads maintained.”

At the conclusion of the study, the agency would then consider implementing a voluntary pilot program on one or more of the funding options.

“We should not rule out or have preconceived notions about any funding mechanism before we have a chance to consider all of them,” Soliday stated.

The bill is in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee.

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