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State's New Transportation Ventures Could Cost $10 Billion

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Jimmy Emerson
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https://www.flickr.com/photos/auvet/7974506488

A blue ribbon panel studying Indiana’s future transportation needs laid out this week the state’s top road project priorities.  The task now is to figure out how to pay for them.

The panel recommended four priorities for road construction projects – widening I-65 and I-70, building an I-69 Ohio River bridge and creating a commerce connector around Indianapolis. 

The panel did not include specific funding recommendations, though co-chair Cathy Langham says it does suggest developing some sort of user fee system.

“We believe it’s important to avoid diverting funds from their originally intended purposes and we suggest that the state create new, dedicated funds,” Langham says.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) says figuring out how to generate new funds is the purpose of a bill he authored last session. 

The legislation requires the state to hire a third party to evaluate funding mechanisms – including a fuel tax, a flat per vehicle fee or a vehicle miles traveled tax, or VMT, which taxes drivers on how much they drive.  Soliday says the state needs an objective metric to judge something like the VMT.

“Some of the studies I’ve seen, the collection cost is 16 times as great as a fuel fee so you need to make empirical judgments here, not just ‘Hey, my favorite thing, let me throw it on the wall and see if it sticks,’” Soliday says.

The panel estimates the cost of its top tier priorities at more than $5 billion dollars.  Soliday says he thinks the cost will be closer to $10 billion.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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