Transportation and Infrastructure

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

State of Indiana / http://in.gov/

House Republicans revealed more specifics about their road funding proposal as the caucus Thursday unveiled its legislative agenda for the 2016 session, which includes new and increased taxes:

In addition to raising the gas tax to match a rise in inflation – which the House Republican caucus previously revealed would be part of its plan – Speaker Brian Bosma says the proposal would also allow local municipalities with populations of at least 20,000 to implement a wheel tax. 

Currently only counties have that ability. 

Lawmakers To Debate Length Of Road Funding Plan

Jan 4, 2016
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The looming legislative debate over road funding will involve not just how to pay for it, but whether to seek a short-term or long-term solution.

Governor Pence has proposed $1 billion in road funding over four years.

But House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) has called for a long-term funding fix.

House Republicans have proposed a hike in the gas tax to make up for 13 years of inflation since the last increase.

Washington State Department of Transporation / https://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/

House Republicans will propose this coming session a comprehensive, long-term road funding measure.  That bill will likely push the state to study tolling major interstates from border to border.  However, some lawmakers are skeptical about that proposal’s potential.

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With millions of people hitting the road this Christmas it’s going to be very busy across the nation’s highways—but drivers will be paying less to travel this year.

Nationally, the average price hovers around $2.00 a gallon for gas, and GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan says Indiana falls right in step.

“We have not seen an average pump price in Indianapolis over two dollars a gallon since early November,” DeHaan says.

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