Up to INDOT Now to Finish What It Started!

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If you were one of the forty-four million people traveling over the 4th of July Holiday, you might have noticed a slight increase in your gas price. If you bought that gas in Indiana, a $.10 increase per gallon in tax went into effect on July 1 because of action by the Indiana General Assembly during their 2017 session.

The gas tax increase, together with some other fees, is aimed at generating up to an additional $900 million annually for the construction, maintenance, and upkeep of our roads and bridges.  The tax was last adjusted in 2003. No provisions for inflation had been made at that time. The proceeds from the tax increase will be split between the state and local government.

The long-term funding plan was one of the primary bills to come out of the last legislative session and found broad support amongst legislators, the governor, business groups and people across Indiana that recognized for the Indiana economy to thrive, good infrastructure is essential.

In recent years state and local officials have wrestled with how to keep up with the demands of our infrastructure system. Rising construction costs coupled with shrinking budget dollars had shifted most units of government into a mode of just maintaining what they had rather than thinking about new infrastructure needs.

Priorities like the completion of US 31 and I-69, as well as improvements to major Indiana transportation corridors like I-70, I-65, and US 30 were in jeopardy without a new funding source. The completion of US 31 has long been the top transportation of the business community. Business leaders up and down the corridor have worked closely with state and local officials for over twenty years to advance the priority.

The US 31 corridor is a lot different today than it was twenty years ago. State Legislators from our region along with Governor’s Daniels, Pence and Holcomb have made it a high priority and hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in the corridor to eliminate bottlenecks, improve safety, and ensure the efficient flow of traffic between the State Capital and one of Indiana’s largest regional economies. They all should be thanked and commended for their efforts.

Though the progress has been terrific, communities along the corridor have yet to reach their full economic development potential because of the impediments that remain in the way. Six stop-lights and two railroad crossings (neither of which carry many trains) remain the major impediments.

Another hundred intersections and two hundred driveways stand in the way of limited access corridor. Attention now has turned to Marshall, Fulton, Miami, Cass, Tipton and Hamilton Counties where a majority of that work remains.

INDOT has long operated under the mantra that they should finish what they started and maintain what they have. We agree! The new revenue boost should position the agency to finalize a more specific plan for at least addressing the major impediments like the stoplights and railroad crossings. It also should give them sufficient resources to address key safety concerns like US 31’s intersections with SR 110 and SR 10. 

I’ve traveled I-69 and I-70, and agree both should be high on the State priority list. But I also believe it’s important that we not abandon plans to complete the US 31 corridor. We need INDOT to complete their plans, especially for the eight major impediments that remain.

Jeff Rea is chief executive officer of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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