April 9, 2014

THEIR VIEW: Fast lane for road projects


Such road work means jobs in Indiana, both during construction and afterward. How many jobs is subject to interpretation, or, more precisely, extrapolation.

Pence says $400 million would produce 9,800 jobs. Indianapolis investigative TV reporter Bob Segall contends Pence and other Republicans are misinterpreting a formula and that the actual number of jobs would be closer to 4,300. At issue, too, is whether those jobs would be created or supported. Either number and either meaning amounts to lots of jobs.

It’s not just dollars, of course. One hopes it’s not too much to believe that expanded roadways would mean safer roadways. Surely, traffic in three lanes moving through Vigo, Clay, Putnam and Hendricks counties on I-70 would make for a safer drive to Indianapolis.

So the Pence plan for using extra road funding makes good sense and, relatively quickly, could relieve congestion, add safety and improve commerce.

We’re not as enthused, however, with Pence’s idea to effectively privatize a 21-mile section of I-69 being planned between Bloomington and Martinsville, largely along existing Indiana 37.

As reported last week, Pence is near signing a deal with a Dutch company for a public-private deal to fund the Bloomington-to-Martinsville stretch of I-69. Indiana would put down $80 million upfront, and the Dutch company would pay $325 million to build that section, according to the Evansville Courier & Press. Then, Indiana would pay the company $21.8 million per year for 35 years ($763 million). That would raise to $843 million the state’s total cost for that section.

At that rate, those 21 miles would cost Indiana $40 million a mile over those 35 years. But according to a group called Advance Indiana, the nearly 100-mile stretch of I-69 from Evansville to Bloomington (not all of which is complete) cost $700 million — about $7 million a mile.

Some, including state Rep. Matt Pierce, a Democrat from Bloomington, believe that discrepancy places an undue tax burden on future generations.

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The Pence administration continues to cut Indiana agency budgets despite a state surplus of $2 billion. Is this wise management of state funds?

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