Transportation Improvements Top List of Legislative Priorities

Senator Jim Arnold
Senator Jim Arnold

State lawmakers face the unenviable task of finding money to pay for significant road improvements during an election year. Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, says they’ve let the state’s infrastructure go for too long.

“We’re the crossroads of the nation, and right now we’re kind of in a real trick bag. What brought it to light was the I-65 at the Wildcat bridge down there in Lafayette. When that went out, it shut 65 down. The whole nation, the whole nation was tied up. Now that we’ve got that fixed we’re all realizing we’re going to have to put some money into roads.”

Arnold says nothing has been decided yet in terms of funding but an increase in the gas tax can’t be ruled out. He says the current 18-cents-per-gallon rate hasn’t gone up since 2003 and adds its not generating enough money to cover expenses. Arnold adds Indiana needs an extra $500 million over the next five years to pay for overdue road and bridge improvements and repairs.

One plan calls for a graduated increase in gasoline taxes, with incremental increases over the next few years. Arnold stresses nothing has been decided yet but says everybody is going to have to share in the pain.

“Every penny that’s raised on the gasoline tax will estimate to raise $30 million generated revenue for roads and bridges. If we raise it four cents, let’s say, from 2017, that would actually take effect in the middle of 2016, that means that we’d have generated about $120 million additional over what we have right now.”

Indiana is also poised to receive some federal transportation funds. Other proposals call for taking money from the state’s reserves to pay for road improvements.