Holcomb plans $1B in infrastructure projects funded by hike in toll fees

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb plans to pursue more than $1 billion in infrastructure projects that would be funded by a 35 percent increase in toll road fees for heavy vehicles.

The projects, announced Sept. 4, are part of Holcomb’s Next Level Connections initiative to expand broadband access, add more biking and hiking trails, improve roadways, attract more direct international flights, and accelerate construction on the last leg of the Interstate 69 project.

Most of the projects would be funded by an increase in toll road fees for Class 3 vehicles and above, which includes most large trucks, trucks with trailers, and semitrailers. Passenger vehicles will not be affected by the increase.

A majority of the funding—$600 million—would go toward speeding up work on the last portion of the Interstate 69 project. Section 6 of the project, which runs from Martinsville to Indianapolis, would be completed three years earlier than expected, in 2024 instead of 2027.

Another $190 million would be spent on improvements to U.S. 20, U.S. 30 and U.S. 31. The interchange projects along U.S. 31 would reduce the number of stoplights to two along the roadway from Indianapolis to South Bend.

The infrastructure initiative also includes creating two grant programs—$100 million would establish a broadband grant program to help bring high-speed fiber optic broadband access to underserved parts of the state and $90 million would establish a grant program to expand hiking, biking and riding trails throughout the state.

The toll road proceeds would also provide $20 million to help attract more nonstop international flights to Indianapolis International Airport.

The Indiana Finance Authority is expected to amend its agreement with the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. at its Sept. 20 meeting to allow for the increase.

The plan does not require legislative approval.

For Class 3 vehicles, which include larger trucks such as dump trucks, tolls would increase from $16.33 to $22.04 for the entire length of the seven-county roadway. For Class 4 vehicles, which include trucks with an attached trailer, the fee would rise from $34.04 to $45.96. For Class 5 vehicles, which include many semitrailers, fees would increase from $44.46 to $60.02. The Class 6 hike would be from $52.11 to $70.35 and the Class 7 increase would be from $96.90 to $130.80.

The new rates would still be among the lowest toll road fees in the country on a per-mile basis. The amended agreement would require the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. to make three payments to the state over the next three years—$400 million in early October this year, $300 million in October 2019, and $300 million in October 2020.

Also, as part of the amended agreement, the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. would invest an additional $50 million in upgrades to the toll road, which would bring its total investment in the roadway to $500 million by 2025.

Several other projects included in the Next Level Connections announcement that are not expected to be funded through the toll road proceeds include increased spending on highway cleanup, pursuing a fourth water port in Lawrenceburg, and expanding rail service in northwestern Indiana.•

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