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100% plus rate hike could await some Indiana Toll Road users

(WNDU)
Published: Dec. 9, 2016 at 5:55 PM EST
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Rates on the Indiana Toll Road could more than double for some 80,000 users come 2017.

The end of 2016 will mark the end of a state subsidy program that held down the costs of toll road travel for some customers for the past 10 and a half years.

Users of the electronic transponder E-ZPass are today charged about half as much as a cash customer would be for the same trip.

Up until now, the other half has been paid by the State of Indiana directly to the toll road operator.

It is that subsidy program that is about to abruptly end.

“Unfortunately it’s time to pay the piper and people aren’t going to like it,” said Ind. Rep. Ryan Dvorak, (D) South Bend.

Some of the $3.8 billion Indiana made by leasing the toll road to a private company in 2006 was used to try and shield commuters in toll road counties from the rate increases privatization would surely bring.

But the state’s rebate program was only designed to last for ten years and is set to expire at the end of this year.

“The reality is, the money that was raised, it's now gone,” said Ind. Sen. David Niezgodski, (D) South Bend. “Maybe it could have been phased in so it would not have been felt the way it’s going to be felt.”

An E-ZPass customer is now charged $2.25 for a trip from the Notre Dame exit to the west barrier. The post freeze price could be $5.70 for an increase of 153 percent.

An E-ZPass customer is now charged $4.65 to travel the entire length of the toll road. The post freeze price could be $10.50 for an increase of 125-percent.

While its true the toll road operator doesn’t have to charge the full am ount once the subsidy program ends, for Rep. Dvorak, it’s hard to imagine any other scenario.

“They have to. I mean a corporation, you could face a shareholder liability suit for not doing everything you can to increase your, maximize your revenues. I mean that's the problem with privatizing state owned infrastructure,” said Dvorak.

The toll road operator plans to make a final decision on what it will do by the end of next week.

The subsidy program only dealt with one vehicle class: two axle vehicles like passenger cars and pick up trucks.