Days after the governor announced his short-term plan for increasing road funding for state maintained roads, highways and bridges, the Interim Committee on Roads and Transportation held a meeting to discuss long-term alternatives and options that would potentially provide more funding for local counties, cities and towns to maintain their infrastructure.
The committee heard testimony from elected officials, academics, and consultants focusing on the condition of Indiana’s infrastructure and how to fund projects. Officials with Purdue University’s Local Technical Assistance Program estimated it would take $1 billion in immediate funding to repair the roads and bridges local governments currently keep up. A Tippecanoe County Commissioner highlighted how large a piece local roads and bridges are of the state’s overall infrastructure puzzle when he pegged the percentage of roads maintained by local units of government to be 90 percent of Indiana’s total road miles.
Earlier in the week, the governor announced a plan to spend $1 billion over the next four years to rehabilitate state-owned and maintained roads, highways and bridges. The “21st Century Crossroads” proposal provides no funding for locals to maintain and rehabilitate roads and bridges. Funding for the governor’s proposal would come from:
- Spending $241 million of the state’s $2.1 billion budget reserve
- Using bonds to borrow an additional $240 million
- Taking an early $50 million distribution of interest earnings on proceeds from the 2006 Indiana Toll Road lease
- Refinancing existing bonds to save $26 million
- An increase in funding from the legislature’s current $100 million appropriation, used now for interstate widening, to a $150 million a year for the next three years that is dedicated to improving existing state transportation assets
Senate Democrats argued that while it’s progress that the Governor now acknowledges Indiana’s infrastructure needs attention, his plan doesn’t provide the resources to improve the roads and bridges most Hoosiers start and end their travels on.
For every one centerline mile of road the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) maintains (approximately 11,000 miles), cities, towns and counties maintain nearly nine (around 84,000 miles total). For every structurally deficient bridge INDOT must repair (320 bridges total), locals have five (1,532 bridges total).
A visualization of the drastic difference between locally-owned roads (left) and state-owned roads (right) can be seen below:
Dependent on gasoline tax revenue, funding for roads has remained flat or decreased with the emergence of more efficient vehicles and fewer miles being driven. Even when revenue from gasoline tax remains flat, the purchasing power of that revenue erodes over time as a result of inflation. Committee testimony hit on a variety of additional funding options including hiking the state gas tax, last raised in 2003. A consultant noted the current gas tax of 18 cents per gallon amounts to a monthly total of $20 a month per household and an increase to the national average of 24 cents a gallon could generate up to $500 million annually. Other options discussed would be diverting more money from the state gas tax to locals. Finally, testimony called for improving and streamlining the process by which local units of government could implement a wheel tax, as 51 counties in Indiana have already done.
This was the last meeting of the Interim Committee on Roads and Transportation. The final report of the committee with recommendations for the General Assembly should be made available in the coming days.