A bill passed by the Indiana House of Representatives today is designed to provide a pathway to funding for regional infrastructure improvements including highway or bridge repairs, rail lines, airports, commuter transportation and other critical road improvements.
Senate Bill 128 sponsored by State Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper) and State Sen. Mark Messmer’s (R-Jasper) allows Indiana counties or municipalities participating in a Regional Development Authority (RDA) to create a fund specifically for regional infrastructure projects.
“A recent study conducted by Purdue University estimates that local governments need $775 million annually over the next decade to maintain their current infrastructure,” Braun said. “This session, House and Senate lawmakers are working together to find long-term road and bridge funding solutions for Indiana. This bill would give local and regional areas additional tools to help fund their infrastructure projects. By providing new ways for local governments to pay for these projects, legislators can continue to encourage economic development while working to improve the quality of roads and bridges in areas that desperately need it.”
Under the bill, RDAs would be able to apply for FASTLANE federal grants, which fund road and bridge projects across the country. Local governments could also transfer money out of their general or rainy day funds to support regional infrastructure development. Braun said the proposal would allow
Braun said the proposal would allow an RDA to enter into an agreement with the Indiana Department of Transportation to contribute local matching funds to pay for these projects.
This skin in the game approach has been identified as a necessary item to achieve federal funding for a project like the Midstate Corridor. Originally billed as I-67, the Midstate Corridor is an interstate-grade 37-mile connection connecting the improved portion of U.S. 231 at the south border of Dubois County with Interstate 69 near Washington.
A regional initiative led by OFS Brands president and CEO Hank Menke has been working to set up the groundwork for the connection since 2012. A blue ribbon transportation commission classified the project as a need for the area in the next eight years however the lack of funding for major infrastructure projects has slowed the process for its creation.
Menke and other members of the coalition have continued to work with the local businesses and government entities to fund the studies needed to establish the highway. Here are details from an economic and traffic study completed in 2012.
“Funding Indiana’s roads is one of the top priorities for lawmakers this session,” said Sen. Messmer. “While state infrastructure funding has been discussed the most, it is also important to provide local communities with the tools they need for road projects. Giving local communities the power to pool their resources to apply for these grants will help spur local infrastructure projects, boosting economic development.”