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Indiana Toll Road rate freeze won't expire in June

(WNDU)
Published: May. 27, 2016 at 5:56 PM EDT
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A 10 year freeze on some Indiana Toll Road tolls was set to expire on June 30th, 2016.

It’s an event that threatened to usher in toll hikes of 100 percent or more.

While the threat is still there, it’s now further off in the distance. NewsCenter 16 has learned that Indiana’s Finance Authority has negotiated a delay.

“We’ve been fortunate with responsible fund management and forethought and that has allowed the state to extend the toll-rebate period to December 31, 2016,” wrote Dan Huge, Public Finance Director with the IFA.

In 2006, the idea of leasing the toll road to a private operator was not a popular one in northern Indiana. Some lawmakers insisted on a freeze to protect local commuters from inevitable rate increases.

Under the program, drivers of two axle vehicles, (cars, light trucks, and motorcycles) who use electronic tolling have the amount they pay out of pocket frozen at the rates in place in 2006 while the toll road operator actually receives the full fare because the State of Indiana pays the difference.

For instance, a qualifying commuter today pays $4.65 out of pocket for a trip down the full length of the Indiana Toll Road, but the toll road operator receives a full fare of $10.20 for the trip with the state paying the $5.55 difference out of an account established in 2006 with a $60 million deposit.

There’s apparently enough money left in the Toll Freeze Deposit Account to fund another six months of subsidies.

“Due to responsible fund management, funds remained available in the account and the state believes it is appropriate to apply those funds to extend the rebate period which aligns with the intention of the original agreement,” write Dan Huge in an email to NewsCenter 16.

Currently the rates for class 2 vehicles are much different when payments are made with cash than when they are made electronically (therefore subsidized).

For instance, a trip down the full length of the toll road now costs $10.20 for cash customers and just $4.65 for those using transponders.

A trip from the Notre Dame exit to the west barrier now costs $2.25 for electronic toll users, but $5.50 for cash customers (144 percent more).

As for the extension of the freeze, Ind. Sen. Carlin Yoder told NewsCenter 16, “I had heard some rumblings of it. I’m happy that there is a freeze in place, it makes sense because the state is in a good position now.”

LaPorte County Attorney Shaw Friedman was skeptical: “Well, the timing of the temporary extension of the toll freeze certainly has a smell of election year politics to it. We learned in March of this year that the new Australian owners were testing the waters to sell off a 15 percent share in the road, less than a year after they won the lease rights. Where’s the long term commitment to Hoosier motorists?”

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