Gov. Mitch Daniels said today the state may have to turn to traditional funding --- state and federal gas tax revenues --- in order to complete the 142-mile Interstate 69 extension between Indianapolis and Evansville.
He signaled he is in no hurry to find that money. The state has already earmarked about $700 million to build I-69 from Evansville to the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center in Martin County. Construction on that segment will begin next year.
The portion from Crane to Indianapolis will be built later, perhaps in six or seven years, Daniels said.“The good news is we have seven years to work on (finding enough money),” Daniels said. “It may simply come out of the standard funds of INDOT as it would have otherwise.”Daniels also said the state, in an effort to pay for the project, may have to reconsider putting tolls on the extension.
The governor’s public comments were his first since Saturday, when he withdrew his proposals for private toll bypasses in Central and Northwest Indiana.
Those projects encountered intense criticism from the public.
“We meant to touch off a good debate about this new idea. It was clear to me there was not sufficient consensus to proceed as I think there ought to be,” Daniels said.
For those of you who recall last year's debate in the House over Major Moves, you will recall it passed only with an understanding there would be no tolls on the I-69 stretch from Martinsville to Indianapolis. Now, the governor is saying that part of the extension may not be built unless tolls are placed on it. Daniels already broke faith on the I-69 component of his Major Moves program when he proposed his ICC for the first time late last year and suggested I-69 could not be built without the construction of the new toll road proposal which had never seen the light of day until the words came out of his mouth. When you put your agreement to writing, you're suppose to have a deal. With Gov. Daniels, it seems that's just the beginning of an ongoing negotation.
Coinciding with that disappointing message from the governor was another message from his administration that a major overhaul of Major Moves may be in order due to inflationary costs. The AP reports from an earlier Star report:
Gov. Mitch Daniels said toll road lease money would pay for more than 400 major new road or maintenance projects in Major Moves, including the extension of Interstate 69 from Indianapolis to Evansville, two new Ohio River bridges near Louisville, and the completion of the Hoosier Heartland Highway in north central Indiana.
However, rising fuel and commodity prices have significantly increased the cost of steel, bricks and asphalt, the Star reported, citing the Associated General Contractors of America. Road construction costs have risen 11 to 14 percent annually in each of the past three years, while Major Moves assumed just a 3.5 percent annual inflation rate after an initial bump of 11 percent during its first year.
The fast-rising costs could force an overhaul of the plan, the Star said.
Is the inflationary costs really the problem? Did Gov. Daniels oversell what could be achieved with the $3.8 billion toll road revenues? Or, is Gov. Daniels just punishing folks who want the I-69 extension to Indianapolis but wouldn't support his ICC proposal? Any or all of the above are possibilities. If the governor keeps up this approach to governing, I can assure him the voters will send him packing next year.