Governor Mike Pence Wednesday listed the completion of Interstate 69 above most other road funding priorities.
The governor says finding public-private partnerships for the road’s final stages from Martinsville to Indianapolis ranks ahead of almost all other road projects when it comes to allocating an additional $200 million a year given to the Indiana Department of Transportation in the recently-passed state budget.
“Other than the Ohio River bridges projects and finishing [U.S.] 31 without stoplights from our capital city to South Bend, I think I-69 is our top priority,” Pence says. “And the resources that have been set aside give us the opportunity to make a down payment on that, and they give us the latitude to consider a variety of financing options for that in the future.”
But when a reporter suggested the governor didn’t directly answer a question about whether the road would be paid for in part by tolls, Pence was cagey.
“There may be other projects where that might make more sense,” he says. “In this case, when I think of public-private partnerships, I more think of finding the resources in the private sector to finance what we’re doing in the long term. And we’ve not had extensive discussions about tolls relative to the completion of I-69.”
Then-Governor Mitch Daniels steadfastly declared the road would not use tolls to build its first three sections from Evansville to the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, but Pence’s Wednesday announcement focused on the possibility private firms would use their money to build the road’s final two sections. Pence says I-69’s completion is a higher priority than other projects this year’s budget would fund, including expanding Interstates 65 and 70 to six lanes throughout the state.