Transportation and Infrastructure

Brian Hefele / https://www.flickr.com/photos/brhefele/6973020335

Senate lawmakers and House Democrats pushed back Monday against those advocating for the House Republican road funding proposal and its two tax increases. 

Lawmakers heard about an hour of public testimony on road funding from local government officials and road construction industry representatives.  And the people who testified all say none of the plans offered this year provide a permanent solution. 

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Legislative leaders meet with Gov. Pence Friday morning to begin final negotiations on how to pay for road repairs, and whether taxes will go up to do it.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) is adamant the Senate won't go along with House Republicans' call to raise taxes on gas and cigarettes -- he says there needs to be a more thorough study of just what the state is building and the options for paying for it.

Brian Hefele / https://www.flickr.com/photos/brhefele/6973020335

Senate lawmakers Tuesday advanced their compromise on the ongoing road funding debate. 

The Senate’s version of the road funding bill does not raise any taxes (unlike its House counterpart).  Instead, it would spend down the state’s surplus and give local governments more freedom to raise or create road funding taxes. 

It would also create a new task force compromised of lawmakers and state and local officials. Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) says the task force will focus on transportation infrastructure needs and develop long-term funding solutions.

Brian Hefele / https://www.flickr.com/photos/brhefele/6973020335

Senate fiscal leadership Thursday unveiled its attempt at a compromise in the road funding debate. The effort came in the form of a committee amendment that dismantled much of the House Republicans’ proposal.

The Senate’s action came one day after House Republicans inserted the entirety of their plan into a Senate bill, ensuring it would be kept alive in the process.  That’s because the Senate committee only kept small portions of the House plan in the proposal it unveiled. 

cycleluxembourg / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cycleluxembourg/

As legislators tinker with road funding plans, mass transit advocates say not to forget them.

Kim Irwin with the Indiana Citizens' Alliance for Transit says buses, rail and even bike trails and greenways are part of infrastructure too -- and they're the kind of infrastructure that attracts people.

The group isn't looking for money in the road bills. But Irwin says they want to start legislators thinking about increasing transit funding next year in the state budget.

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

The bill proposing tax hikes to keep Indiana's roads in good repair includes another proposal for raising money -- toll roads.

But even if the bill passes, motorists won't be paying to drive on Indiana roads for at least five years -- if ever.

The bill simply orders INDOT to study whether tolls on I-65 and I-70 would be workable.

State law requires legislative approval of any tolls, and federal law bans tolls on roads that used to be free.

But Congress has approved an experiment to grant three states an exception to that rule.

Jim Grey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilene/

During testimony Wednesday for the House GOP’s road funding plan, local government leaders applauded the potential influx of money to their communities, but taxpayers’ advocates weren’t happy with the source of that new money-higher gas and cigarette taxes.

All three mayors who spoke at the hearing said they support the bill.

Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott says with a current budget of $6 million a year, the city is still $3 million short of being able to overlay and patch what they already have. And he says the bill's dollar-for-dollar matching grant program would help.

Kara B / https://www.flickr.com/photos/ladywings/

An 11th-hour federal transportation bill the president signed last month adds $50 million in annual federal funds each year to Indiana’s transportation budget, but some people say that money might not make much of a difference in solving the state’s maintenance needs.

The bill, called the FAST Act, gives Indiana a billion dollars annually through 2020. INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield says it’s the first long-term transportation bill the federal government has released in years.

Robert Carr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/myconstructionphotos/1525875787/

Tuesday was a good first day in the legislature for two pieces of road funding legislation supported by Governor Mike Pence.

Governor Pence’s road funding plan uses $241 million from the state’s budget reserves to immediately fund state road and bridge maintenance. 

It also provides $240 million through bonding -- which some lawmakers balk at. 

Their concern is paying off bonds over 20 years for road repairs that only last about seven years. 

But Office of Management and Budget director Micah Vincent says the bonds wouldn’t be used for short-term fixes.

Sarah Fentem / WBAA

On Sunday afternoon, a handful of pedestrians, steeling themselves against the frigid January temperatures, made their way across the Wabash, their collars turned against the riverfront wind. 

The cold weather made celebrating unreasonable, but the day marked the first weekend pedestrians were able to walk across the Myers Bridge after months of construction delays.

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