Holcomb pledges 'data driven' review of possible Indiana interst - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Holcomb pledges 'data driven' review of possible Indiana interstate tolls

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SELLERSBURG, Ind. (WDRB) – Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said Thursday he plans to be “data driven” as he weighs expanded tolling on the state’s interstate highways.

A study ordered by the Indiana General Assembly concluded last week that a statewide toll system could yield tens of billions of dollars for road projects in the coming decades, helping offsetting a projected drop in fuel tax revenue.

Holcomb, a Republican, has until next December to decide if he wants to pursue all-electronic interstate tolls – the method used on the Interstate 65 bridges connecting Clark County, Ind., and Louisville.

“I want to do my due diligence,” he told reporters in Sellersburg. “I want to be data driven and informed by the facts and that’s exactly what (the Indiana Department of Transportation) will be doing over the course of the next about 12 months.”

Speaking some 10 miles from the I-65 toll spans, Holcomb said his office will take into account lessons from the first year of that network, known as RiverLink. Indiana and Kentucky oversee the project, which has met revenue expectations even as customer service delays and billing mishaps have plagued the inaugural year.

“The states are getting together and working through all those customer service issues but, yes, we’ll take all input seriously around the state of Indiana as we move forward with the next strategic part of this plan,” Holcomb said.

Starting in 2021, tolls of 4 cents to 63 cents for each interstate mile traveled could produce $53 billion for state coffers, according to a feasibility study by Omaha, Neb.-based HDR Inc. Indiana lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year requiring the Transportation Department to commission the study.

The law also requires Holcomb to decide if tolls are the best way to make major improvements to Indiana’s interstates. The governor said it was “premature” to discuss which interstates eventually could be tolled.

State Sen. Ron Grooms, a Republican from Jeffersonville, said tolls are simply one option for making interstate improvements, but he noted that the federal government generally bans tolls on interstate highways except under rare circumstances, such as adding new lanes.

Indiana is exploring whether it qualifies as part of the three federal programs that now authorize interstate tolls.

Grooms also said officials need to gauge the impact of tolls on the Ohio River bridges – the I-65 Kennedy and Lincoln spans, and the upriver Lewis and Clark Bridge that connecting eastern Clark County and Prospect, Ky.

“I think we need to step back, take a look at the tolling results of the two new bridges, measure the economic impact of that – negative and positive – and then look at what would be the most logical place to start tolling -- if there is one,” he said.

Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825, mgreen@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2017 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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