Sunday, December 9, 2007

Indiana halts highway projects due to federal funding questions

Indiana's top officials aren't willing to put its residents' money at risk like Wisconsin's are. Indiana is delaying major road projects until the Federal Highway Trust Fund, now almost broke, is beefed up.

From WISH-TV in Indianapolis:

INDIANAPOLIS - Improvements for Interstate 69 between I-465 and Exit 10 may be further down the road than expected. Local officials say the Indiana Department of Transportation has pushed major reconstruction back perhaps as long as 13 years...

The project would be funded from the $3 billion Major Moves deal that leased the Indiana Toll Road to a French and Australian consortium. Approximately $530 million of Major Moves money is earmarked for highway improvements in Hamilton County. Now INDOT officials say matching federal dollars are needed to get the job done.

"The Major Moves plan and program ends in 2015," said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield. "The current projections call for the federal highway trust fund to dry up in 2011. It's really difficult to talk in definitive terms about things further than 2015."

Wingfield said INDOT will follow-up work north of I-69 and I-465 with additional projects as the budget picture becomes clearer. He added Congress will likely reauthorize highway funding during the next legislative session. Some projects could start sooner if funding becomes available, he added.

"That will give us a better picture, because obviously for an interstate, federal funding is a large part of what pays for those projects."

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, meanwhile, is charging ahead with plans for its unfunded $1.9 billion expansion project for North-South I-94 and and unfunded reconstruction Zoo Interchange project of unknown cost. Why should the Wisconsin Department of Transportation care if it puts huge financial burdens on state taxpayers? As long as the road-builders get paid, all is well.

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