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State To Receive Additional $50 Million From Fed For Roads

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 $1 billion annually through 2020.

INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield says it’s the first long-term transportation bill the federal government has released in years.

"It’s typically been short extensions or extensions of the previous bill and so what had happened that over time the amount of state funds that have been used for state highways has increased."

Wingfield says his department’s focus is not on using the money for big projects, but on improving and maintaining the state’s aging highway system.

“We’re now moving toward taking care of our existing roads and bridges," says Wingfield.

But local officials are skeptical of how far the federal funds might go.

Wingfield says one-quarter of federal funding is earmarked for local roads. But Tippecanoe County Highway Director Opal Kuhl says the spending isn’t as impressive when it’s spread out over 92 counties, especially when repaving a single mile of a two-lane county road costs approximately $50,000.

Kuhl says that means officials at the local level are still looking to the statehouse for funding.

"And so we’re watching the legislative session in Indianapolis pretty closely," says Kuhl. "So I think that we’ll definitely get some funds out of that that will be more helpful to us than ones at the federal level."

Governor Pence and Statehouse Republicans differ on the need for a short-term influx of cash or a long-term road funding plan.

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