GREENFIELD — Toll roads on Interstate 70 could be used to fund road improvements, but area residents who frequently use the thoroughfare have balked at the proposal.
Proposed legislation would increase the tax Hoosiers pay at the gas pump by 4 cents a gallon and also require the state to study how much funding could be generated by establishing tollways on I-70 and Interstate 65, two of the state’s most traveled interstates.
No details have been released on how much the tolls might cost and where on I-70 and I-65 they would be established, but so far, the proposal has gotten a cool response from many Hancock County residents who say they’d rather risk adding time to their commutes by taking alternate routes to avoid 70.
I-70 offers a quick way for residents to get to Indianapolis, but some residents say they’ll avoid the interstate altogether if they have to pay to use it.
Lori Shrout of Greenfield takes I-70 five to six times a week to get to her job at a security company in Fishers, where she works in human resources.Her commute now is just under a half hour as long as there are no accidents or traffic delays. It’s easy to take I-70 to get to her workplace, she said, but she’ll avoid it if lawmakers choose to charge tolls between Indianapolis and Hancock County in coming years.
She’ll wake up earlier and add 15 minutes to her commute to take back roads if it means she doesn’t have to pay for tolls, she said.
Shrout lives on a single income and already budgets for gas to get to work every day; budgeting money to pay a toll twice a day would strain her wallet, she said.
She agrees the state’s highways and interstates need to be repaired, but charging tolls isn’t the best way to generate funding for the work, she said.
Raising the state’s gasoline tax — which is tacked onto the price of gas — and charging tolls would be another financial burden she’s not willing to bear. She’s not sure what the best way is to find the funding needed to repair roads, but she knows charging Hoosiers more isn’t it, she said.
“It’s ridiculous. We’re already taxed to death,” she said. “They’ll shoot themselves in the foot because the interstates will be empty. People aren’t going to pay to drive them. I certainly won’t.”
Dan Snodgrass, who commutes from Fountain Square in Indianapolis to his job at the Hancock County Public Library every day, said he’d support paying tolls if it meant roads would improve.He takes I-70 several times a week from his home on the southeast side of Indy to Greenfield and said it usually takes him about 30 minutes. He could take back roads, but using the interstate is easy. Budgeting for tolls would be an extra expense for him each month, but it’s one he’s willing to take on as long as the state improves the interstates, especially potholes and exit ramps along I-70 that need some repairs.His concerns with toll roads are the time they would add to his commute. He doesn’t want to have to wait in a line to pay a toll.
He pointed to Chicago, which offers the I-PASS, in which drivers are able to electronically prepay their tolls instead of paying an attendant at a toll booth, which requires drivers to come to a stop.
“I don’t want to have to wait on people to go,” he said. “I’d support it as long as it’s easy to pay.”
He’d also not opposed to paying more at the gas pump. Increasing the state’s gas tax by 4 cents a gallon would have little impact on his wallet, especially because gas prices have been so low recently, he said.
Ron Stamps lives on the north side of the county near Pendleton and said he already avoids using the interstate if he can. He’d rather take back roads, which he said is safer and usually quicker.Now that he’s retired, he and his wife hardly ever use Interstate 70; he’d avoid using it ever if a toll road was established, he said. He doesn’t want to pay to fund a road he doesn’t use, he said. But more than that, he worries about the impact a toll road would have on local roads.He suspects many residents would choose to use county roads to avoid paying tolls on the interstate, which would increase traffic on those roads and cost the county more in repairs.
“They’re going to take a beating, and the county expenses would go up, which means I’ll be paying more,” Stamps said.
Stamps also doesn’t want to see the state increase the gas tax. He’d rather see the state use some of its cash reserves to pay for much-needed road repairs, he said, a measure Gov. Mike Pence has proposed as an alternative to raising taxes.
“The first thing they ever look at is increasing taxes,” Stamps said. “They need to live within their budget, just like I do.”
State lawmakers are mulling increasing taxes and studying the possibility of toll roads on interstates 65 and 70 to generate extra funding for road improvement projects. Here’s a look at some of the numbers:
18 cents is the current gasoline tax, which Hoosiers pay at the pump. House GOP leaders have proposed increasing that tax by at least 4 cents. For a 12-gallon tank — the gas tank size in many small cars — the increase would cost Hoosiers about 50 cents more every time they fill up.
Gov. Mike Pence would rather draw $241 million from the state’s cash reserves and borrow $240 million than increase taxes to pay for infrastructure improvements.
Increasing the state’s gasoline tax and the cigarette tax by $1 could generate $500 million for roads each year.
Establishing tolls on I-65 and I-70 could free up $365 million a year to repaving interstates across the state.
Source: Associated Press; House Bill 1001
Most recently, House Bill 1001, which would increase the state’s gas and cigarette taxes and require the state to study the possibility of establishing tolls on interstates 65 and 70, passed a House committee.
To track the bill’s progress, visit in.gov/legislative.
“(Lawmakers will) shoot themselves in the foot because the interstates will be empty. People aren’t going to pay to drive them. I certainly won’t.”
– Lori Shrout of Greenfield