$17-million in Major Moves money has already been spent in Northern Indiana, without so much as an inch of new pavement to show for it.
That's the amount of money that was spent during the first six months of the Indiana Toll Road lease to shield commuters and other small users from a toll increase.
Tolls increased June when a private operator took over the toll road.
People driving passenger cars perhaps never noticed, because they never had to pay the higher rates.
“Passengers or users of the toll road think that nothing has changed,” said South Bend State Representative Ryan Dvorak. “There's a hidden cost built in, they're not paying those tolls right out of their pocket but they're paying for that toll increase through their tax dollars.”
The State is actually using a portion of its Major Moves money to pay the rate increase on behalf of passenger cars.
For instance, someone who travels the length of the toll road now pays $4.65 out of pocket at the booth, although the actual cost of the trip is $8.00.
The private company now running the toll road then bills the state for the difference of $3.35.
According to Ryan Kitchell of the Indiana Finance Authority,
officials wanted to see that people in the northern part of the state were doing to “get a dividend from this 3.8 billion dollars.”
But critics are quick to point out just how far the state has to go in the name of protecting Hoosiers.
The program now has the state subsidizing the tolls of all passenger cars regardless of where those cars are from.
The state hopes to take a more targeted approach at the end of the year, when electronic toll collection is available throughout the toll road.