State officials are taking the road funding debate outside the statehouse, to rural locations across the state.
The meetings between the Department of Transportation and Indiana Farm Bureau are a chance for rural residents to speak up about their infrastructure needs.
Larry Pullam was one such resident at a recent meeting in Crawfordsville. He's a retired corn and soybean farmer from Hendricks County, and says he never felt like he had a voice in the infrastructure conversation before the meeting.
"Now we can get involved, and we can have input on improvements," he says.
At the meeting, Pullam learned that upcoming roads projects are listed online, and about how to weigh in on road conditions. He says healthy infrastructure and good information are key for getting farm products to market and keeping prices low for consumers.
State Sen. Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville) says rural residents drive longer distances for basic services -- so they make bigger contributions to the gas tax, a key source of road infrastructure funding.
"Obviously there's fewer people to advocate for that dollar," Boots says. "But INDOT needs to recognize that those people need dollars too, and they actually spend more money."
So he says INDOT should devote more money to rural roads.
The Farm Bureau is also using the meetings to shape its lobbying agenda for the next state legislative session, when lawmakers say they'll hone in on road funding issues. That's after they approved a stopgap measure this past spring.
Farm Bureau lobbyist Amy Cornell encouraged the Crawfordsville audience to voice opinions on how they wanted to see funding for infrastructure projects improve.
"What types of solutions are you willing to support?" she asked. "We already know you support an increase in the fuel tax … but we also know that it's going to need to come from a mix of resources."
INDOT officials said at the meeting that the gas tax is becoming a less reliable funding source, as cars become more fuel-efficient. Sen. Boots said he wouldn't support a gas tax hike.
The latest road funding bill increased INDOT's share of gas tax money, but did not raise the tax itself.
INDOT and IFB meetings in Greenfield, LaPorte and Vincennes take place later this month.