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September 6, 2018 12:15 PM, EDT

Trucks Targeted for Toll Increase in Indiana’s Infrastructure Plan

A truck travels Indiana Toll Road CrossCountryRoads via YouTube

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s recently announced $1 billion infrastructure plan will rely on a 35% increase to the rates that pertain to trucks on the Indiana Toll Road.

The Republican governor unveiled his Next Level Connections program, which provides an infrastructure agenda for 2019, on Sept. 4. The program calls for the completion of several highway projects as well as for the expansion of broadband services and an increased network of hiking and biking trails.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, the Indiana Finance Authority will amend its agreement with Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. to increase toll rates on heavy vehicles by 35%. The rate hike will fund the infrastructure plan and take effect in October. The toll applies to vehicles categorized as Class 3 and above, which encompasses any truck that weighs more than 10,000 pounds.

Holcomb

Holcomb

Indiana Motor Truck Association President Gary Langston said the governor’s announcement was an unpleasant surprise, especially because the tolls on trucks will support certain projects that don’t directly impact trucks.

“It doesn’t include cars, which the car people are certainly happy about,” Langston told Transport Topics. “We were surprised. We had no idea that this was coming. To hear that it’s truck-only and then to hear that there are portions of the revenue that will be used for things totally unrelated to roads, like bike paths and walking trails and broadband and things that really don’t connect with trucking, is just unbelievable that all of that is funded by nothing more than the toll rate increase on trucks.”

Langston

Langston

Indiana Toll Road runs 157 miles across northern Indiana, spanning from Chicago to the Ohio border. The road then turns into Ohio Turnpike and becomes the Pennsylvania Turnpike as it continues to stretch east.

Rates on Indiana Toll Road depend on the number of axles a vehicle has and how far along the route that vehicle travels. According to Indiana Toll Road website’s toll calculator, a 5-axle vehicle would be charged $44.50 to travel the length of the route.

Next Level Connections identifies several major highway projects that the administration plans to expedite over the next decade. The plan directs $600 million to accelerate the completion of the final leg of the Interstate 69 expansion project, which has dragged on for years, from 2027 to 2024.

The plan also directs $190 million to add interchanges on U.S. Route 31 between South Bend and Indianapolis as well as to expand the number of projects scheduled for completion on U.S. routes 20 and 30.

Trucks travel the Indiana Toll Road

Traveling the Indiana Toll Road could get costlier for fleets, as the governor's infrastructure plan calls for a 35% increase in the tolls that trucks pay. (TT File Photo)

Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. will put $50 million into upgrades along the toll road, including safety initiatives such as a smart truck parking system and overhead message boards.

“Improvements on the toll road, on highways 20, 30 and 31, will make our roads safer for truck and vehicle traffic alike and enhance economic development opportunities,” Holcomb said in the press release.

Although Indiana Toll Road is a primary conduit for truck traffic, Langston suggested that drivers may turn to U.S. 20 as a way to dodge the increased tolls. Like the toll road, U.S. 20 runs east-west across the top of Indiana.

“[The toll road] is an extremely important freight corridor that has a tremendous amount of freight traffic. Trucks are the No. 1 customer of the tollway,” Langston said. “[U.S. 20], too, is a very busy corridor. I think we will see more significant diversion as a result of that.”