Merritt proposes express-lane tolls on commuter-heavy roads like Binford

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Would area residents be willing to pay tolls for easier travel on busy central Indiana roads like Binford Boulevard?

Republican mayoral candidate Jim Merritt is offering the idea as a possible way to raise revenue to help fix local infrastructure that he says “is crumbling.”

Merritt, who has served in the Indiana General Assembly for 30 years, on Wednesday proposed a variety of possible solutions for the city’s infrastructure funding issues, including using local tax revenue “to secure a public-private solution.”

“For years we have leveraged working with the private sector to help with efficiency and effectiveness to help solve public-sector problems,” Merritt said. “I would like to expand this.”

Merritt also said he would ask the Indiana Legislature to “reallocate funding to Indianapolis to cover the excessive use of our roads.”

“In 2016, the legislature provided an additional $59 million for immediate road repairs here in Indianapolis, Merritt said. “They understood then–as they do now–that immediate action must be taken, especially after road repair and maintenance have been so harshly neglected over the past three
years.”

Another idea he raised was “optional, not compulsory” express toll lanes on roads such as Binford or Fall Creek Parkway.

“For those who chose to use this option for travel, they would pay an additional fee, and that money would be used to continuously improve our roads,” Merritt said. “It would be a choice of the driver and not something mandated.”

Merritt said the approach has been used in other cities. For instance, in Los Angeles, drivers on Interstate 10 and Interstate 110 pay a toll to use  “ExpressLanes,” using a so-called “FasTrak Flex” account. Once a car enters the express lane, the correct toll is deducted.

Merritt hasn’t always been keen on asking non-Marion County drivers to pay for road repairs.

Last year, Merritt told IBJ that the idea of imposing a commuter tax was “silly,” and said “there is no support in the Republican caucus of the Senate to establish a commuter tax or any type of added taxation for individuals who work in Marion County and live outside.”

Merritt’s proposals were quickly criticized Wednesday by Mayor Joe Hogsett’s campaign and called a “political stunt.”

“Our response is simple: we hope every Indianapolis voter is paying attention, because if they don’t let their voice be heard on election day, Sen. Merritt’s destructive toll road plan could become reality,” campaign spokeswoman Heather Sager said. “If Sen. Merritt’s idea of a ‘bold solution’ is to put a usage tax on drivers, we don’t think Indianapolis can afford his plan.”

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10 thoughts on “Merritt proposes express-lane tolls on commuter-heavy roads like Binford

  1. Asking for the state to fix the road funding is funny coming from a republican candidate, considering the republicans are the ones that gerrymandered all of the districts around Indianapolis to make them as suburban (and republican) as possible.

    No wonder Indy is under-represented at the state level!

    1. Having actually read the story…

      That is exactly what is being proposed, adding an extra lane with all of the wasted median space in the middle…

  2. This guy has been in state government for 30 years, he’s part of the problem giving away millions in pensions, health insurance etc., so now to pay for infrastructure he wants to tax us more, that’s what a toll is a tax that’s not called a tax, we’ve been paying taxes for just this sort of thing and our politicians give it away. Come on 30 years in State Government is way too long!!!

  3. The irony of this story is not lost on me, and hopefully not most voters. Senator Merritt was given every opportunity, as a powerful elected representative to advocate for equity in the distribution of tax dollars as it relates to infrastructure in Indianapolis (or for that matter all of our other underfunded obligations), and did nothing. Now that he has decided to be mayor he suddenly has an epiphany and wants to actually advocate for his urban constituency. Only in politics could a person actually participate in the cause of a major problem and then act like they are our only hope for fixing the very same problem.

    1. Well said! I once tried to get Merritt’s interest on another matter regarding a state law that was not being enforced in Indianapolis, and his only response was to talk to my local city-county councilor (when a simple fix to the law by the Republican-controlled state legislature was actually needed to make it enforceable). Mayor Merritt? I don’t think so.

  4. So, allow those who live in the wealthier suburbs a quicker route into downtown? One which they can afford, but others who want good school systems, but aren’t wealthy may not be able to afford? This sounds like a recipe for more segregation and disparity between the burbs and inner-city. If people want shorter commutes, move closer to work, or select a job that is closer to your home. Don’t make it pay for play.

    1. I believe the thought process is that you make it a single lane, and you can choose to use it or not by paying for it. So if you live locally, there is no extra cost.

      If you want to cut your commute from 60 minutes to 20 minutes, pay a few bucks for it.

      Not saying I agree/disagree but it is not a totally illogical thought process IMO