The Indiana Finance Authority recently approved of a deal to increase truck tolls by 35 percent in order to pay for Gov. Eric Holcomb’s $1 billion infrastructure plan. The toll increase will go into effect on Oct. 5.
With a unanimous decision on Thursday, Sept. 20, the Indiana Finance Authority’s vote allows the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. to employ the truck-only toll increase. Holcomb announced the plan on Sept. 4, explaining that the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. came up with the idea.
Effective Oct. 5, only Class 3 (three-axle) and above vehicles will see tolls increase by 35 percent. Tolls for the entire 157-mile trip along I-90 for a Class 5 (five-axle) truck will increase from $44.46 to $60.02. Annual increases will continue as planned in the original agreement.
Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, wrote a letter to Gov. Holcomb dated Sept. 19, calling the truck-only toll increase “ill-advised” and “burdensome and discriminatory.”
“In other locations in the U.S. where toll rates have increased, traffic congestion routinely increases significantly on alternative routes,” Spencer wrote. “Adjacent communities will be disrupted and the safety of those traveling on these roads could be reduced because of the elevating traffic volumes.”
Spencer speculates in the letter that this is not new information to Holcomb.
“It’s our opinion that you are aware of these issues, yet still made the decision to forge ahead and negotiate this ill-advised plan in a manner that appears to be intended to circumvent public scrutiny,” he wrote. “It is also our understanding that your time frame to finalize your plan is this Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, providing the public and interested stakeholders with no opportunity to review the details of the agreement.”
Gary Langston, president of the Indiana Motor Truck Association, issued a response to the final vote on Friday, Sept. 21:
“We continue to be extremely disappointed in the Indiana Finance Authority’s vote today and Gov. Holcomb’s truck-only, secretly-negotiated and toll-financed Next Level Connections transportation plan. Tolls are taxes—and when taxes go up, so does the cost of doing business. The governor’s new infrastructure proposal would fail Economics 101 because it assumes small businesses will simply eat the costs of their new toll tax burden. Instead, we know that these new costs will be passed on to Hoosier families. Increasing tolls on trucks by 35 percent is a veiled supplier tax that will increase the price of food, manufacturing, and practically all consumer goods along the Indiana Toll Road—and beyond.”
Langston also pointed out that the 35 percent increase is to fund various projects for only the next three years. However, after the three years are up, the increased toll rates will remain, “only benefiting the private corporation that manages the Indiana Toll Road for the more than 60 years left in the contract.”
According to a news release, the $1 billion in proceeds from the amended agreement will be used to fund planned road projects in the seven toll road counties, which will free up Indiana Department of Transportation resources to be directed to the Next Level Connections program. Essentially, increased toll rates for heavy vehicles will indirectly fund the governor’s infrastructure plan.
The new agreement will inject $50 million into additional toll road upgrades, including a smart truck parking system and expansion of overhead message boards, cameras and variable speed signs. More than $500 million in upgrades will be invested over a 10-year period.
The $1 billion will be paid out over three years: $400 million this October, $300 million next October and the remaining $300 million in October 2020.
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