Indiana bill would provide boost to major road work

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/26/2014

Major road projects could soon get a boost if Indiana state lawmakers can agree on how much money should be rerouted from a trust fund to transportation.

The road funding debate comes a mere eight years after then-Gov. Mitch Daniels leased the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years in return for $3.85 billion. The money has essentially run dry because it was either spent or is 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.

A bill awaiting consideration on the Senate floor would make $200 million available for interstate improvements. If approved there, HB1002 would move back to the House for consideration of changes before heading to the governor’s desk.

“House Bill 1002 is a step toward addressing several of Indiana’s immediate infrastructure needs,” Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said in a recent news release.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to release the money from the state’s general fund for major highway projects. The panel cut in half the $400 million sought by Gov. Mike Pence. The other $200 million could be tapped by state lawmakers next year when working on the new two-year budget.

In 2013, state lawmakers voted to set aside the money for future projects. The governor has called for legislators to release the money now to the Indiana Department of Transportation to take advantage of current construction costs before inflation reduces the value.

INDOT is proposing to use the money for projects that include adding lanes to Interstates 65, 69 and 70 in certain areas.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said sagging state revenues give him reason to pause on releasing the full amount. Instead, he thinks it’s a better idea to save some for later.

The Senate panel also removed a House provision to make available about $25 million for local road projects.

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