Much being done to improve our roads

By Woody Burton

Now that the 2017 legislative session has concluded, there’s a lot to reflect on. The General Assembly considered a variety of issues and ultimately sent Gov. Eric Holcomb 251 pieces of legislation to potentially sign into law.

One of the biggest bills this session was the state’s long-term road funding plan.

If you’ve driven across the state lately, I’m sure you’ll agree that our roads need some work. Over the last several years, the General Assembly has been looking at the best way to increase funding for our transportation infrastructure.

I’m happy to report that House Republicans created a 20-year, long-term funding plan that takes care of our current needs, finishes projects we’ve already started and addresses future plans. If we had not acted this year, Indiana’s roads and bridges would face on average a $1.2 billion annual funding shortfall over the next two decades.

To ensure our roads and bridges are safe, we developed a data-driven plan that provides immediate and ongoing funding increases for local and state roads in a sustainable manner. Starting in July, state road funding will see a $357 million increase, while local road funding will receive an additional $260 million.

In order to do this, a user-fee approach will be implemented so that the people using the roads pay for the roads. The user fee on gasoline, special fuel and motor carrier surcharge taxes will each be increased by 10 cents.

Raising these fees was not an easy decision for me, nor was it one that I took lightly. However, these fees, in their present form, have lost their buying power over the years due to inflation.

The funds being generated by our current fuel tax structure cannot keep up with our transportation infrastructure demands. The fee on gas hasn’t been changed since 2003, while the fees on diesel and motor carrier surcharge haven’t been adjusted for inflation since 1988.

While we were developing this plan, we knew that we needed to support local road projects, so we developed specific funding mechanisms to ensure our local roads aren’t forgotten.

A $15 annual statewide infrastructure improvement fee will be placed on all vehicles registered in Indiana. Since hybrids and electric vehicles use the roads, but pay little to nothing in fuel taxes, the fees on these vehicles will be $50 and $150, respectively.

All the money collected by these fees will go to the Community Crossings Matching Grant Fund. This fund doubles, and in some cases triples, local government spending on road and bridge repairs, bringing improvements to smaller cities, towns and counties.

On average, this road funding plan will cost Hoosiers around $5 a month. Another thing to note, all the fees paid at the pump will go exclusively to fund roads. This was a necessary step to ensure that Indiana remains the Crossroads of America.

State Rep. Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) represents a portion of Johnson County. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.