Road project funding announced

Nearly $16 million of work planned for Hancock County over next 5 years

HANCOCK COUNTY — Nearly $16 million will be invested in Hancock County road and bridge projects over the next five years under a road funding plan unveiled this week by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Holcomb and Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness announced Thursday the state will spend $4.7 billion through 2022 on INDOT’s Next Level Indiana road initiative.

The projects on the list include efforts statewide to rehab 1,295 bridges, resurface 9,628 miles of road and add an additional 122 miles of roadway, according to state figures.

In Hancock County, $15.7 million will be spent to resurface 77 miles of state-owned roads and repair 13 bridges by 2022, the plan shows.

Projects in Hancock County include a $2.35 million plan in 2018 to replace the Fortville Pike bridge over Interstate 70. In 2019, the U.S. 52 bridge over West Little Sugar Creek will be reconstructed for about $1.1 million.

Portions of State Road 9 in Hancock County are slated to be resurfaced between 2020 and 2022, the plan shows, and a section of U.S. 40 in Greenfield is scheduled to be resurfaced in 2021.

The initiative will be funded by House Enrolled Act 1002, which increased the gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon and hiked registration fees at the BMV.

At a press conference Thursday in Indianapolis, Holcomb said the program will be the largest non-stop building program the state has seen.

Holcomb’s plan also includes an additional $342 million for local roads projects, according to figures provided by his office.

The plan unveiled Thursday is the product of years of work by lawmakers to find a sustainable way to fund Indiana’s infrastructure needs, which exceed $32 billion, lawmakers have said.

Last year, House Speaker Brian Bosma, who represents a small portion of western Hancock County, advocated for a tax increase to pay for roads improvements, but that was during an election year, and Senate Republicans, as well as former Gov. Mike Pence, now the vice president, were adamantly opposed.

This year, lawmakers voted to hike the state’s fuel tax — which hasn’t been increased since 2003 — and allow it to increase in the future to keep pace with inflation. The road funding package pushed by the GOP majority this session also creates a new $15 vehicle registration fee. Hybrid owners will have to pay a $50 fee, while electric car owners will have to pay a $150 fee.

Republicans said their plan makes sense: by relying on vehicle fees and gas taxes, they are asking people who use the roads most to pay for them. But Democrats pointed to the state’s roughly $2 billion budget reserve and question why the GOP wants everyday motorists to pay more — especially after a decade of Republican-led tax cuts have shifted the burden away from the rich and onto the poor and working class.

What remains to be seen is if the financing they put in place this session will be enough. Holcomb and GOP leaders have already said that tolling some interstates will likely be necessary in the coming years in order to fully address the state’s infrastructure needs.

Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, who represents a portion of Hancock County, said projects across his district range from replacing crumbling roads to installing new traffic signals to improve safety.

“If anyone has driven on our interstates lately, they will understand why it was vital for the General Assembly to enact a comprehensive plan,” he said in a statement.

Rep. Robert Cherry, R-Greenfield, and Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, could not be reached for comment.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

At a glance

Indiana will spend $4.7 billion over the next five years to repair roads and bridges across the state. $15.7 million will be invested in Hancock County between 2018 and 2022:

2018: $2,356,404

2019: $206,000

2020: $7,236,372

2021: $5,098,000

2022: $846,825

Source: Next Level Indiana road construction plan

Author photo
Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.