Pence’s plan for fixing roads and bridges advances

Homeland Security and Transportation committee meeting on SB 333. By Nicole Hernandez, TheStatehouseFile.com

Homeland Security and Transportation committee meeting on SB 333.
By Nicole Hernandez, TheStatehouseFile.com

By Amanda Creech
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – A piece of Gov. Mike Pence’s solution to repair roads and bridge was advanced by the Homeland Security and Transportation Committee Tuesday.

“Transportation is a big issue and funding is dominating the discussion,” the bill’s author, Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, said.

Senate Bill 333 would transfer funds from the state reserve fund to the state highway fund, if the reserves at the end of the state fiscal year are more than 11.5 percent. The state treasurer would also be able to transfer the first $50 million of interest to the Next Generation Trust Fund after March 15, 2016 to the state highway fund for road and bridge repair. The bill would allow the Indiana finance authority to issue bonds for transportation projects.

“This plan allows us over four years to look at the broad landscape of transportation funding, changes at the federal level, changes in technology, while we truly get to a position of a true long term plan because of all those changes while we’re improving the conditions of our roads and bridges over the near term,” Micah Vincent, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said.

Amy Cornell, policy advisor for the Indiana Farm Bureau, said her organization supports funding at both the state and local level and that SB 333 focuses on the state level.

“It’s always prudent to explore ways to achieve goals without an additional tax burden but our members do support raising taxes for improvements of roads,” she said.

Chris Kiefer, chief of staff for Indiana Department of Transportation, said they have been analyzing the state highway system. With an interstate system that is about 40 or 50 years old, Kiefer said there would have to be more funding to keep the roads at “the level that Hoosiers expect.”

INDOT is currently in the process of finding projects that the funds could be used for and Kiefer said there are 800 projects that have been found.

“We’re in the process of identifying the best way to package those in terms of contracts so that we wouldn’t obviously let 800 individual contracts,” Kiefer said. “The first rough drafts of lists will be some major interstate rehab jobs on 65, I-74, I-69, in addition to smaller pavement and bridge replacement on the rest of the state highway system.”

President and Co-founder of MD Logistics Mark Sell said his company specializes in retail distribution, consumer goods and transportation services.

“Roads are critical to what we do,” Sell said. “For several years our ability to serve our customers was measured in a matter of days. In the world we live in today, our success is managed in a matter of hours.”

He testified in favor of the bill, but said he encourages the committee to continue looking long term for solutions and funding options to maintain roads and bridges.

Dennis Faulkenberg, representing the Build Indiana Council, shared concerns about using bonds for roads and bridges.

“Never in Indiana have we had a bonding program for highways that there wasn’t new revenue enacted and dedicated to that bond repayment,” Faulkenberg said.

Faulkenberg is worried about INDOT already being “cash strapped” and getting new bonds that they would have to repay over the next 20 to 30 years.

The bill passed unanimously and will be sent to the Appropriations Committee for review.

Amanda Creech is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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