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Public-private plan for I-69 work proves divisive

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A plan to finance the cost of a section of the new Interstate 69 connection between Indianapolis and Evansville is drawing both praise and ire.

Gov. Mike Pence is getting ready to sign onto a deal with a Dutch-led contractor to construct and maintain the section between Bloomington and Martinsville, the Evansville Courier & Press reported Saturday.

Under terms of that contract, the state would make an $80 million "down payment" to the private partner, Isolux Infrastructure, which would pay the $325 million estimated for construction. Once that section of highway is complete, the state starts paying the partner $21.8 million a year for 35 years and the company maintains the highway.

Isolux is working with local contractors E&B Paving of Anderson, Force Construction Co. of Columbus and Gradex Inc. of Indianapolis.

Isolux beat three other consortiums with its proposal.

If the private developer doesn't keep the road open to traffic and up to Indiana Department of Transportation standards, the state could reduce the annual payment.

Supporters say the public-private partnership is innovative, but critics say the deal will end up costing Indiana taxpayers more in the long run.

Then-Gov. Mitch Daniels paid up front for the first phases to take the Interstate 69 extension from Evansville to Bloomington out of the $3.8 billion made off the long-term lease of the Indiana Toll Road and a traditional combination of state and federal funds.

The next section of I-69 will span 21 miles from Bloomington to Martinsville by upgrading Indiana 37 and is expected to open to traffic in 2016. The 26-mile final leg would essentially follow the path of Indiana 37 from Martinsville to Indianapolis.

Jim Tymon, with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, compared the long-term deal with buying a house.

"You have to finance and mortgage it over a number of years. I think that's what you are starting to see with transportation projects as well. States don't have the cash on hand to pay for a big project up front, so, therefore, they are looking to finance it," he told the newspaper.

But not everyone is happy with the deal.

"It's a quick easy fix for government that can't afford to build and maintain the roads that people want. By at least getting it out there, the question is, is that fair to the next generation? We have pushed off the burden to future generations, years beyond what we would be normally paying," said Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington.

The agreement won't be the first of its kind in Indiana. Daniels, for example, privatized part of the state welfare system, the Indiana Toll Road and management of the Hoosier Lottery.

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  • We should do it ourselves.
    without getting in to the merits of the entire I69 project I can't help but wonder why we don't bond for the project and get it over with. Oh, I forgot that would require a tax increase to cover the bond sinking fund & we can't do that even though it would be the least expensive way to go and offer the best protection for Indian tax payers.
  • You Asked For It
    Be careful what you wish for. How many people hailed this project as a godsend for the State, for employment, for a quick route to Evansville? Now that the cost of this godsend is becoming clearer, people are complaining. Are people so naïve to think that this project was going to be free or that taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook for it? That's funny.
  • Standards?
    "If the private developer doesn't keep the road open to traffic and up to Indiana Department of Transportation standards, the state could reduce the annual payment." IDOT has standards? Who knew, what with the deplorable condition of Indiana roads.
  • Bribes
    I bet Pence is getting a huge donation for his "Presidential" campaign fund in the near future. In Indiana we don't just accept bribes, we demand them.
  • They "Don't Have to Maintain it for 35 Years" IF...
    They "Don't Have to Maintain it for 35 Years" IF the contractor actually does what they're supposed to. If not, the state's highway personnel will have to deal with it.
  • I think your forgetting the fact the State does not have to maintain the road for that 35 years. In that time, the road would have to be rebuilt at least once and repaved numerous times. While it would be nice to be able to pay cash for the road, like I would love to pay cash for my house or my car, sometimes the money is not in hand. As cars become more efficient anduse fuels other than gas, the ability for states to pay cash for roads is going to be harder.
    • Wow 2
      Mafia Saying "You can steal more money with a suitcase than a gun"
    • WOW
      Lets see 21.8 x 35 years = 763 million plus 80 million down and we are paying 843 million for a 325 million stretch of highway. Gotta love those math geniuses who put this deal together. Someone is dipping into the till here. This gives truth to the Mafia
    • Did you read the post?
      "Isolux is working with local contractors E&B Paving of Anderson, Force Construction Co. of Columbus and Gradex Inc. of Indianapolis." Just because a Dutch firm was selected doesn't mean Hoosier companies won't be involved in the construction and maintenance.
    • I-69
      And why was there no Consortium of Indiana companies considered best for this project? Why was it handed on a silver platter to a foreign consortium? How much is going into Pence's pockets? This is another crooked deal that will cost Indiana taxpayers millions.

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