Thursday, June 29, 2006

$3.8 Billion In The Bank

The final execution of Gov. Daniels' Major Moves initiative, represented by the privatization of the Indiana Toll Road, took place today, along with the transfer of $3.8 billion into the State's bank account. While state leaders hailed the deal, Senate Democrats were decrying it.

Sen Karen Talian (D) and Sen. John Broden (D) told the South Bend Tribune that the deal amounted to an outflow of money from northern Indiana to central and southern Indiana. They complained that Indianapolis would enjoy $1.2 billion from the lease funds while St. Joseph Co. would only get $500 million. Of course, Indianapolis is several times the size of St. Joseph Co. On a per capita basis, St. Joseph Co. is making off like a bandit. Not to mention that the building of the U.S. 31 expressway from Indianapolis to South Bend will be a God-send to people in northern Indiana.

While the I-69 construction will take place in southern Indiana, the entire I-69 corridor from Indianapolis to Ft. Wayne will benefit greatly from this big step forward in completing a national highway extending from the Canadian border to the north and the Mexican border to the souce. Also, the Heartland Highway from Lafayette to Ft. Wayne will greatly enhance east-west travel in northern Indiana. It is simply reprehensible for the Democrats to pit one geographic region against another for political purposes; this deal benefits the entire state of Indiana.

The two legislators complain that northern Indiana motorists will have to foot the bill for higher tolls, but even the Democrat plan offered in the legislature would have resulted in raising tolls at least as much as the Major Moves plan. And the bulk of those toll revenues are in fact paid by out-of-state motorists traveling through Indiana. If the Democrats want to regain control of the legislature, they better look for another strategy. This one isn't working.


Doug said...

If the road construction is going to benefit the entire state, then the entire state should have paid for it.

But the political will was lacking for a general tax, so they went this route which, politically, feels like less of a tax.

I don't think the correct metric is to compare dollars per capita between Indianapolis and South Bend. Rather it would seem more appropriate to compare toll expenses per capita and allocate funding accordingly.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great deal for Lafayette. We'll get some roads constructed, I won't pay a dime in tolls, and my taxes won't go up. But somebody's paying more than they really should have to for my good fortune.

Would motorists in Indianapolis really be so sanguine about this if, instead of I-80/90, it was I-465 on which tolls were going to be jacked up for the next 75 years so that road projects in the rest of the state could be completed? Under such circumstances, I just can't envision Marion County residents taking it in stride as being all for the good of the state.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Doug--If it were my decision, I-465 would be made a toll road and the revenues would be used to build a mass transit system to serve the entire metro-Indy area. I wouldn't invest another dime in new roads in this area. We need an elevated train to bring people to and from the city period. Our metro transportation system is a total failure at this point. The bottom line is that the I-31, I-69 and Hoosier Heartland are long overdue projects. The GOP has a plan that will work, and the Democrats have offered nothing.

Anonymous said...

No one has to use the toll road -- not to mention that something like 66% of toll road users are from out of state!

As far as what Broden and what's-her-face are saying, it's funny that no one says anything about the fact that northern Indiana wasn't benefitting financially from the toll road in the first place! I spend a lot of time in northern Indiana, and I swear they are the most impossible people to satisfy. NOTHING pleases them unless it's status quo.

Anonymous said...

I was the previous Anonymous... just wanted to correct myself on something -- apparently, the northern IN counties' roads were funded by the toll road revenue. Regardless, the toll road acct was in serious debt and had a low balance anyway.

Doug said...

In my mind, the right thing to do would have been to raise tolls enough to pay off the existing bonds on the toll road and, once they were paid, make it a free highway like the rest of the state's Interstate system. I think free highways lend themselves more to economic development than do toll roads -- for example, I don't think Honda would have picked Greensburg if I-74 were a toll road.

Jezebella said...

But then you still have a rate hike and no improvement to existing roads, toll or free.

I agree that we should toll 465 and construct a modern mass transit system. Better yet, toll people who are getting on I-69 between Noblesville and 465. You wouldn't even need a toll booth...people could walk car to car since the average speed is 1/2 mph anyway.

Doug said...

Theoretically, we could figure out what the average Northern Indiana motorist pays in tolls over a year and, once the toll road was paid off, impose a tax equivalent to that amount on everyone in the State and use that money to pay for infrastructure.

Politically, however, that's probably not feasible since citizens have been conditioned to freak out over anything called a tax whereas they won't raise the same fuss about paying a private company something labeled a "toll."

Gary R. Welsh said...

Well folks in the southern half of the state are going to have to pay tolls on the new I-69 highway so that should help even things out.

Anonymous said...

When do we get to hear about Northwest Indiana? There, the toll road relieves traffic on the Borman (I-80/94), although driving there is still no fun. If truckers (who are hit with the bigger toll increases) change routes to the Borman, or (even worse) US-30, it will only be harder to get around in NW Indiana. Add the failure to plan for the Illiana Expressway and the persistant lack of a North-South highway that functions and you're looking at the place that is actually getting screwed. In contrast with South Bend, the toll road is used by commuters in NW Indiana, and it keeps the Borman (used by even more commuters) from being completely stopped, all the time.

Even when people in Southern Indiana are paying tolls on the new stretch of I-69, the Indianapolis area will still escape tolls alltogether, since the Statehouse Republicans specifically exempted the stretch between Indy and Martinsville from tolls. When will the people of Indianapolis start having to pay their fair share of road costs?

Anonymous said...

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