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State Panel Debates How To Fund Transportation Priorities

Indiana's top transportation priorities are expected to cost between $5 billion and $10 billion.

bridge construction

Photo: Kat (Flickr)

A panel has named eight transportation priorities for Indiana.

A blue ribbon panel studying Indiana’s future transportation needs is to figure out how to pay for the top road project priorities it outlined this week.

The panel recommended four priorities for road construction projects – widening I-65 and I-70, building an I-69 Ohio River bridge and creating a commerce connector around Indianapolis.

The panel did not include specific funding recommendations, though co-chair Cathy Langham says it does suggest developing some sort of user fee system.

“We believe it’s important to avoid diverting funds from their originally intended purposes and we suggest that the state create new, dedicated funds,” Langham says.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Ed Soliday says figuring out how to generate new funds is the purpose of a bill he authored last session.

The legislation requires the state to hire a third party to evaluate funding mechanisms, including a fuel tax, a flat per vehicle fee or a vehicle miles traveled tax, or VMT, which taxes drivers on how much they drive.

Soliday says the state needs an objective metric to judge something like the VMT.

“Some of the studies I’ve seen, the collection cost is 16 times as great as a fuel fee so you need to make empirical judgments here, not just ‘Hey, my favorite thing, let me throw it on the wall and see if it sticks,’” Soliday says.

The panel estimates the cost of its top tier priorities at more than $5 billion. Soliday says he thinks the cost will be closer to $10 billion.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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