Indiana governor announces $1 billion, four-year road plan

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has unveiled a $1 billion plan to aid the state’s roads and bridges. However, the plan does not include any new revenue for local roads.

The governor’s four-year plan would reroute $241 million from the state’s reserve fund while borrowing another $240 million. The other $450 million in budget appropriations would need to be approved by state lawmakers.

According to the Republican governor’s office, the 21st Century Crossroads proposal would allow the state Department of Transportation to resurface 16,000 miles of state highways and repair about 5,000 bridges in the next 15 years without increasing taxes.

“These additional funds will help INDOT make future maintenance and repairs as the interstate system comes of age,” Pence said in prepared remarks, “and will help ensure that our roads can support the economic and employment growth our state has seen over the last few years.”

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane of Anderson said it is about time the governor offered a plan to pay for roads.

“It’s reassuring that Gov. Pence now acknowledges that Indiana’s infrastructure needs attention,” Lanane stated. However, he said the governor’s proposal “is a drop in the bucket when you consider Indiana’s infrastructure situation as a whole.”

Lanane also pointed out that the governor’s plan would benefit only state highways. He notes that the majority of roads throughout the state are maintained by local governments.

The push for more money to be applied to roads and bridges comes at a time when state lawmakers have been unable to come up with 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 then-Gov. Mitch Daniels’ $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 mainly on the state’s 18-cent-per-gallon gas tax and 16-cent-per-gallon diesel tax to get needed transportation work done.

To make matters worse, state officials point out that more fuel-efficient vehicles and changing driving habits combined with increased costs of building roads continue to widen the funding gap.

A report commissioned by the state found that lawmakers need to approve about $1.5 billion annually to keep the state’s existing infrastructure in “good or fair” condition. The state now spends less than half that amount per year.

Cambridge Systematics, a Massachusetts-based transportation policy advisory group, released a report that includes 17 possible revenue sources to benefit road and bridge work.

Among the options in the report are increasing existing fuel tax rates, adding sales tax to fuel purchases, indexing the state’s fuel tax to increase with inflation, tolls, and raising taxes and fees on truckers.

State lawmakers are expected to address transportation funding once the 2016 regular session begins in January.

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