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Pence appoints panel to develop transportation plan

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced Thursday he will turn planning for the state’s “next generation” of transportation infrastructure over to a panel that will be co-chaired by the lieutenant governor and an industry official.

Pence made the announcement at the 2013 Indiana Logistics Summit in Indianapolis, although it was part of the Roadmap for Indiana that Pence used in his campaign for governor last year.

“We know that our transportation infrastructure provides Indiana with a dynamic advantage over other states,” Pence said, according to a statement. “With the expertise and recommendations of this blue ribbon panel, Indiana will keep its finger on the pulse of infrastructure innovation and strive to provide businesses and Hoosiers with the most efficient transportation system available.”

Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and Cathy Langham, president of Langham Logistics, will co-chair the panel.  Additional members will be announced in the coming weeks.

The announcement comes as highway funding from the $3.8 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road – part of a program former Gov. Mitch Daniels dubbed Major Moves – runs out.

Highway funding has essentially returned to what Department of Transportation officials call “historic funding levels,” which means the state will have the same sources of cash as it did before Major Moves.

Those revenue streams total more than $3 billion during the two-year cycle, including revenue from state and federal gasoline taxes.

But though drivers are traveling roughly the same number of miles across the state’s highways, they are purchasing less gas and therefore paying less in gas taxes. That will reduce the amount of money available to fix existing roads and match federal revenue available for new highways.

Federal officials are also dealing with declining revenue available for highway projects.

The combination of issues has made transportation funding a hot-button issue in Indiana and across the nation.

On Thursday, Pence outlined three guiding principles for transportation infrastructure in Indiana: Taking care of what the state has, finishing what it starts and planning for the future.

The new blue ribbon panel will be charged with reviewing projects related to four modes of transportation: water, air, road and rail, the governor’s office said. The group is to establish a set of metrics and identify a list of priority projects for development in the next 10 years.

For the longer term, the group will “explore and monitor innovations in transportation infrastructure to keep Indiana on the cutting edge,” the office said.

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  • Um, Pence?
    Pence said, “We know that our transportation infrastructure provides Indiana with a dynamic advantage over other states,” What exactly is so dynamic and advantageous about super highways? It has been proven time and again that building wider highways with more capacity does little to nothing to alleviate traffic. If anything it continues to spread our your population as you make it easier and easier to commute everywhere. If this so called "Blue Ribbon Panel" comes back with any new or expanded highway proposals other than the ongoing I69 to Evansville then they have failed completely.
  • Concerned
    Aaron - if this panel comes back with a grand proposal to invest in upgrades to EXISTING road infrastructure, I'm all for it, but let's not be naive. It's NEW roads that still play big in politics and pay back interests that fund political campaigns. I fully expect the "Indiana Commerce Connector" proposal will come back in play, or worse yet, a second beltway proposal around Indy. Political leaders in Indianapolis that are committed to redevelopment in the City core and reversing years of eroding tax base should be preparing for a fight.
  • Crossroads of America
    In fairness, Indiana and Indianapolis are the "crossroads of America". Transit is important for Indy metro, but make no mistake about it, highways are important in a state like Indiana. Even metro Indy needs significant investment in roads, both for reconstruction (including redesign of urban streets to 21st century standards) and expansion.
  • More roads
    Oh, boy. Prepare yourselves for another major freeway expansion proposal. Excuse me if I'm skeptical this will lead to any "infrastructure innovation", but State leaders have demonstrated time and again that transportation planning only means one thing in their minds...roads, roads, and more roads.
  • Indiana? Cutting edge?
    I'll just go ahead and be the first to say it: more 4-6 lane superhighways does not equal "infrastructure innovation." I appreciate that the panel has been tasked with looking at "water, air, road and rail," but if the result is still 90%+ to roads, this will just be the status quo, not "the cutting edge."

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