Posts filed under 'Transportation'

Toll Road vote draws near

The Governor’s “Major Moves” plan to sell off the Indiana Toll Road (and potentially other roads, rail lines, ports, airports, etc.) is moving into a critical period.

The authorizing legislation, HB 1008, is now eligible for second reading amendments in the House of Representatives. The bill could be considered as soon as Monday morning.

Representative Jackie Walorski (R-Lakeville) has announced she will be filing several amendments – including the establishment of a new Regional Development Authority for Elkhart, Steuben, and LaGrange counties, and some type of a guarantee that road projects in her district will be prioritized.

Representative Walorski, who previously was opposed to the Governor’s plan, changed her position this weekend, and now supports the proposal.

I think it is disappointing this debate has become a political fight instead of the policy discussion it should be. I continue to believe it is bad public policy to sell off an important public asset for a fraction of its value.

Three Indiana newspapers have put together an excellent online resource for information related to this proposal. Some of their collected articles are available here.

1 comment January 29th, 2006

Toll Road talk on TV

On Sunday, I joined Representative John Ulmer (R-Goshen) on the WNIT television show Politically Speaking, hosted by South Bend Tribune columnist Jack Colwell.

politically speaking

The show is a weekly roundup of political and government news and usually features elected officials from across northern Indiana. This week, the main topic of discussion was the Governor’s proposed sale/lease of the Indiana Toll Road.

An excellent source of information on the proposed sale of our state’s main east-west interstate highway has been put together by three Indiana newspapers (the South Bend Tribune, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, and the Times of Northwest Indiana). You can visit the site at www.tollroadforsale.com. It has a great photo gallery, and a section of charts that highlights potential foreign bidders – from Spain to China.

The South Bend Tribune’s individual collection of comprehensive articles on the subject can be accessed here.

I am very impressed to see these three papers joining together to create a central clearinghouse for information on the sale of the toll road on the internet. I feel this is an integral part of journalism today, and shows that newspapers can still be relevant and even ahead of the curve on substantive news coverage.

toll roadSelling (or leasing for up to 99 years) the Indiana Toll Road is simply bad public policy. To do so would be selling off billions of dollars in future revenue for a fraction of its actual value. Toll collections over the next 70 years are expected to reach, by some estimates, over $20 billion – assuming regular toll increases over that time period. Meanwhile, the potential bids on the deal are expected to fetch only between $2 billion and $6 billion.

Even if the Governor received a $10 billion bid, Indiana taxpayers would still be forfeiting billions of dollars over the next several generations to some foreign conglomerate.

Building Indiana’s transportation infrastructure is definitely a critical priority for our economic future. But there are other, more responsible, tools at our disposal to raise funds when money is tight.

GARVEE bonds, asset securitization, and even reworking existing road plans should all be considered. One of the lowest-hanging fruits could be saving almost a billion dollars by pursuing an upgrade to existing roads to complete the Evansville to Indianapolis I-69 extension (rather than build a new-terrain route).

Details of the bids received by the state should be made public on Monday. Please let me know if you have an opinion you would like to share on this issue.

2 comments January 23rd, 2006

Olympic possibilities for South Bend?

olympicsChicago Mayor Richard Daley is dropping hints that the city of South Bend could be part of a Chicago bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. While the talk is still speculative, it goes without saying that a successful bid including South Bend could have a tremendous economic impact on our community.

Local venues such as Notre Dame Stadium and the East Race Waterway are good examples of first-class athletic facilities that are already used for national and international sporting events.

However, Masson’s Blog points out the possible negative ramifications for South Bend being in a different time zone than Chicago, and Mayor Daley has stressed the need to improve transportation between Chicago and South Bend.

Add comment January 6th, 2006

Granger paths and regional greenways

pathThe Granger Paths project to develop a network of multi-use pedestrian/bike paths throughout the Granger area is gaining momentum. Yesterday I mailed a letter to the Indiana Department of Transportation TE program in support of Granger Paths’ application for a Transportation Enhancement grant to help fund the project.

If you live in the area and have not had a chance to view the project proposal that was developed in conjunction with Ball State University’s Landscape Architecture program, feel free to take a look at it online here (pdf).

The Granger project is just one of many multi-use path projects being developed in our community. The St. Joseph County Parks Department has been hosting a series of regional greenways charettes with local governmental and planning bodies in Indiana and Michigan. The long-term goal is to create a wide network of interconnected paths and trails that extend across the Michiana region.

A map of the potential greenways in St. Joseph county can be seen by clicking on the image below (pdf):

trails map

While a large network of greenways is still under development, there are already several existing trails in our area. Among them is the scenic East Bank Trail that runs from the East Race area in downtown South Bend up north along the St. Joseph River.

For more information on trails around the state, the Hoosier Rails to Trails Council maintains a good database of projects and routes across Indiana.

Add comment December 6th, 2005

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