INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday announced plans to use $200
million in newly released funds to expand sections of Interstate 65, and a
transportation department spokesman said the project could reduce travel
time for some commuters in the Indianapolis area.
“If you’re going to be the Crossroads of America,” said Pence, citing
Indiana’s nickname, “You have to have the roads to back it up.”
Money for construction was locked away in a special savings fund until the
governor signed legislation last week for its release. The construction
planned with the money, as well as an additional $200 million that’s being
held pending review, could create as many as 9,800 jobs in the state if used
in one year, said Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will
Lawmakers originally meant to put away $200 million each year for 20 years
to pay for future large construction projects.
Pence requested to use the first two years of savings immediately despite
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley’s concerns about
spending the money too soon.
“What we’ve seen is that the construction cost was outpacing the interest
revenue,” Wingfield said. “We should spend this money now...before the
purchase power gets eroded.”
The second half of the $400 million in highway funding approved by
legislators will be held pending a review of the state’s finances in
INDOT aims for expansion between State Road 44 near Franklin and Southport
Road Indianapolis with the existing money. Additional lanes also are planned
between State Roads 38 and 26 near Lafayette.
Bidding on the two interstate sections is scheduled for this fall, although
construction might not start until next spring, Wingfield said.
Commuters, particularly those from the South side of Indianapolis, could see
both a shorter drive to work and more consistency in how long it takes to
drive back and forth, Wingfield said.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said the expansion could help relieve
dangerous chokepoints and called the legislation an “important jobs bill.”
In addition to thousands of jobs from building the lanes, Pence said better
roads could help Indiana’s economy.
“When I say ‘roads mean jobs,’ I don’t just mean the thousands of Hoosiers
that will undoubtedly be put to meaningful employment using their
professional skills to create effective highways in the state of Indiana,”
Pence said. “Having the right infrastructure in Indiana is absolutely
essential to our people achieving our full potential and prosperity.”