Roads mean jobs, and today more Hoosiers are working than ever before in our state’s history. If we are to remain the “Crossroads of America,” we need the roads and bridges to back it up.
As governor, I’ve set out to ensure that Indiana remains the Crossroads of America by aggressively funding and prioritizing the transportation infrastructure that has become the hallmark of our state. Our state’s importance in the logistics industry helps drive our growing economy, and everyday Hoosiers rely on Indiana’s roads and highways to get to and from work.
Working with members of the Indiana General Assembly, we have increased funding for transportation projects every year since 2013. Our Major Moves 2020 program invested $400 million to widen and rehabilitate heavily-traveled interstate sections that were built nearly 50 years ago. And, the current state budget includes an additional $200 million for state highways.
We have allocated more than $1.26 billion above the Indiana Department of Transportation’s (INDOT) base funding since 2013. As major projects such as Interstate 69, the Ohio River Bridges project and U.S. 31 finish up, INDOT has been increasingly transitioning to a new era of preserving and maintaining Indiana’s existing infrastructure.
In fiscal years 2014 and 2015, INDOT rehabbed or replaced 630 bridges as compared to 181 in the prior biennium — an increase of 250 percent. During the past three years, state bridges rated as fair or better have increased; state-maintained pavement has improved from 89.3 percent in fair or better condition to 90.3 percent; and the number of poor-rated bridges in Indiana has steadily declined over the last few years.
And, fiscal year 2017 will be the all-time largest year of construction at INDOT. Nearly $1.5 billion will go into state maintained roads and bridges, which surpasses even the largest year of Major Moves by almost $20 million.
Accusations that Indiana’s roads are crumbling and our bridges are unsafe only serves to scare the public for purposes of political gain. But, as the Crossroads of America, I believe we should be doing even more, which is why I was pleased to announce the 21st Century Crossroads plan earlier this week.
This plan provides an additional $1 billion in road and bridge repairs in the next four years. And working Hoosiers can rest assured that my proposal does not include a tax increase. As our economy continues to gain momentum, the last thing Hoosiers need right now is to pay more out of their own pockets.
Because of our disciplined financial management, we are able to responsibly pay for the 21st Century Crossroads. We’ve passed honestly balanced budgets, kept government spending in check and maintained appropriate reserves to protect Hoosiers against an economic downturn.
The 21st Century Crossroads will include utilizing a portion of our more than $2 billion reserves while also pursuing additional budget appropriations, restructuring outstanding debt to realize millions of dollars of savings and utilizing interest from existing highway funds. This plan will also responsibly leverage our triple-A credit rating to finance a portion of this program.
Given that local units of government are responsible for many of Indiana’s roads and bridges, I also have directed members of my administration to work with local officials to determine the best path forward on funding infrastructure at the local level.
The billion dollars of funding outlined in the 21st Century Crossroads plan will put INDOT on a path to resurface 16,000 miles of state highways and repair more than 4,900 bridges over the next 15 years. While our bridges are currently rated above the national average of 94 percent in fair or better condition, this plan would further improve Indiana’s bridges to 97 percent and our roads to 94 percent fair or better.
This is a substantial next step that will further improve our roads and bridges as we work toward the solutions for the even longer term. I look forward to working with members of the Indiana General Assembly in the next legislative session to accomplish the goals I outlined in the above.
The 21st Century Crossroads plan will responsibly bring $1 billion to bear in this effort and will help ensure that our roads can support the economic and employment growth our state has seen over the last decade.
Mike Pence is the governor of Indiana, a Columbus native and a former congressman.