Governor Eric Holcomb is responding to criticism of his plan to increase tolling on truckers along the Indiana Toll Road in northern Indiana.
Talking to radio talk show hosts on Thursday afternoon in Indianapolis, Holcomb clarified it is not a “tax on truckers” as many people have thought it to be.
“We didn’t do the deal to ‘tax truckers’,” Holcomb said. “We did the deal because it was brought to us.”
Holcomb is referring to the private company that is leasing the Indiana Toll Road from the state, which he said came to the state with the plan to bump tolls on semi-truck on the toll road by 35-percent. A $30 increase for the largest configuration of semi-truck, says Gary Langston, President of the Indiana Motor Truck Association.
“The top configuration, which is a probably a ‘triples combination’, will probably cost more than $100 now to go from one end to the other,” Langston said. “To tax truckers only makes no sense because everyone uses the toll road.”
Holcomb argued even though both cars and trucks use the toll road, the company that leases the toll road says semi-trucks do “10,000 times more wear and tear” on the toll road than cars do. Even then he said the state is still not charging truckers 10,000 times more to use the toll road than regular cars.
The Governor said truckers will be getting what they and all other drivers are already paying for. He said even with the tolling increase for truckers alone, the Indiana Toll Road is still “well below market rate, much lower than (tolls in) Illinois, much lower than Pennsylvania.”
“We’re putting 600 million into I-69, which truckers will enjoy,” said Holcomb. “We’re putting 190 million in upgrades on (US 31), taking out all the stop lights, which truckers will appreciate.”
Holcomb’s plan would also have a portion of the money from increased tolling go toward expanding broadband Internet service to rural areas of the state.
When asked why he is pushing for this increase when the 2017 Gas Tax Hike is already generating money for road funding projects, such as the I-69 competition, Holcomb said the gas tax is designed to fund a specific 20 year road funding program for road improvement projects.
Holcomb said the increase in tolling will help the state have enough money to finish road projects that need to get done right now. Projects like the the completion of I-69 which he said has a completion date that has moved up from 2027 to 2024.
As far as the assertion from Langston that the higher tolls will make it cost more for trucking companies to haul good that you buy at the store, thus causing the prices of those good to increase, Holcomb said he is not concerned about that and reiterated the Indiana Toll Road is still operating “below market value” and that would not change the higher tolls.
Holcomb said he hopes to make the Indiana Toll Road “the most attractive means of travel” in northern Indiana.