Local Versus State, Which Roads Are Priority For Indiana Governor, INDOT Commissioner?

Mar 9, 2017

Governor Eric Holcomb (right) and Purdue University President Mitch Daniels discuss the state's infrastructure priorities March 8, 2017.
Credit Chris Morisse Vizza/WBAA Radio

Two different messages delivered just one day apart at Purdue University’s annual “Road School” appear to indicate a disconnect between Governor Eric Holcomb and Holcomb’s newly appointed Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness.

McGuinness, who served five years as Mayor of Franklin, says he’s a local-minded person.

Speaking to participants at the state’s annual infrastructure conference Tuesday, McGuinness appeared to clash with Holcomb’s – and former governor Mitch Daniels’ – stance on the importance of completing the over-budget, still unfinished section of Interstate 69 between Evansville and Indianapolis.

“I have said this to INDOT staff across the state that I’ve been in front of, that maintaining Main Street in Greenfield, Indiana, for economic growth, is as important as finishing the I-69,” McGuinness said. “Yes, I said that.”

The following day, conference participants heard a different viewpoint when Purdue President Mitch Daniels asked Holcomb whether the state has as much work to do at the local level as it does at the state level.

Holcomb’s response conflicted with McGuinness’ emphasis on helping cities, towns and counties.

“When I’m meeting with potential job creators or job growers here, if we’re talking about projects over the Ohio River or if we’re talking about rail in the region, those are local projects the state has invested considerably in,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb went on to say the state needs to give local government leaders the tools to determine which infrastructure improvements will create job opportunities.  But, he added, it’s up to local government leaders to do their part and “finish the final mile.”

Holcomb said his priorities include completing the I-69 project, as well as installing additional track on the South Shore Line to entice Chicago residents to commute to jobs in Indiana.

State legislators are currently debating how to generate more than $1 billion needed in each of the next 20 years just to maintain Indiana’s infrastructure.

Even more money would be needed to construct additional roads and bridges.