Gov.: Study done, but no tolls on in­ter­states

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Craig Lyons Post-Tri­bune

A new pro­posal could put tolls on In­di­ana’s in­ter­states, but the gover­nor al­ready has put the brakes on the idea.

In­di­ana Gov. Eric Holcomb re­leased a study Thurs­day that ex­plored tolling In­ter­state 65, In­ter­state 94 and In­ter­state 70 and levy­ing a roughly 7-cent-per­mile charge, but he made it clear his ad­min­is­tra­tion would not im­ple­ment the pro­posal.

“This is great news,” Gary Mayor Karen Free­man-Wil­son said.

Holcomb said, in a let­ter to the leg­is­la­ture, the state is in­vest­ing al­ready in its in­fra­struc­ture, and his plan for 2019 in­tends to lever­age an ad­di­tional $800 mil-

lion for road con­struc­tion and main­te­nance.

“I will not move for­ward with a plan to toll In­di­ana’s in­ter­state high­ways,” but he still wanted to present the study should the state opt to move for­ward in the fu­ture, Holcomb said.

“While I do not in­tend to move for­ward with the plan, there may be good rea­sons to re­visit this re­port in the fu­ture,” Holcomb wrote. “In the least, I do not want to fore­close a suc­ces­sor from con­sid­er­ing tolling as an op­tion for in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments.”

The state con­sid­ered tolling I-65, I-94 and I-70 be­cause those have the high­est traf­fic vol­umes, ac­cord­ing to the study.

The tolling was en­vi­sioned by the leg­is­la­ture as a way to fund im­prove­ments on the in­ter­states, in­clud­ing widen­ing por­tions to six lanes, ac­cord­ing to the plan. The In­di­ana Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion es­ti­mated the im­prove­ments would cost up­ward of $4 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the study.

The pro­posed tolling plan would have added a 7-cent charge to motorists trav­el­ing on I-94 and I-65, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments sent to the leg­is­la­ture. That would have meant go­ing from Illi­nois to Michi­gan on I-94 would cost $3.15, ac- cord­ing to the pro­posal, and a trip from Gary to In­di­anapo­lis would cost $10.57 one way.

Free­man-Wil­son said she’ll be go­ing to In­di­anap- olis for meet­ings this week, and had tolling been in place, the trip would have cost her around $40.

Peo­ple from North­west In­di­ana travel I-65 to ac­cess state gov­ern­ment and ser­vices or to get health care ser­vices, Free­man-Wil­son said, and the tolls would add to the cost of gas. She said some peo­ple don’t of­ten have the dis­cre­tionary in­come to ab­sorb high toll costs.

“Why be greedy?” Free­man-Wil­son asked. The state has a sur­plus and a charge on heavy equip­ment, she said.

“It just cre­ates a hard­ship,” Free­man-Wil­son said.

The tolling study was com­mis­sioned as a part of the leg­is­la­ture’s 2017 in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ment bill.

The 2017 in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing leg­is­la­tion in­cluded a gas tax in­crease for high­ways and a lo­cal grant match­ing pro­gram. The tax was a 10-cent in­crease per gal­lon.

While Holcomb’s an­nounce­ment is good news for now, Free­man-Wil­son said she’ll re­main cau­tious given that fu­ture lead­er­ship could pull the pro­posal off the shelf.

In 2025, state lead­ers could look at the num­bers in the study and see it as a way to deal with changes in rev­enue, Free­man-Wil­son said.

“It left the door open,” Free­man-Wil­son said.

POST-TRI­BUNE

Gov. Eric Holcomb re­leased a study Thurs­day that ex­plored tolling In­ter­state 65, above, In­ter­state 94 and In­ter­state 70.

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