Officials see plenty of uses for $400M in quick road money

Tribune-Star/Jim AvelisTop priority: The cross ties of the old interurban railroad under South Seventh Street have begun to decay, leaving a washboard effect to anyone traveling the thoroughfare. Terre Haute City Engineer Chuck Ennis said the repair of the road is a top priority.

Terre Haute and Vigo County officials say they welcome new legislation proposing more than $400 million in added funding for Hoosier roads and bridges.

Senate Bill 67 — introduced by state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek — would provide an immediate distribution of local income tax revenues for improvement projects. Lawmakers have pegged road funding as a priority when the General Assembly reconvenes next month.

“Obviously, if there’s any money available, we can find ways of improving our infrastructure,” city engineer Chuck Ennis told the Tribune-Star on Thursday.

South Seventh Street tops the city’s list of priority improvement projects, Ennis said. The bumpy ride along that stretch is blamed on the decaying of old interurban railway tracks under the surface.

“Fixing that road correctly will be a substantial investment,” he said.

The bill splits a total of $418 million among counties, cities and towns, according to a press release from Hershman’s office. Counties would receive about $171.6 million and cities and towns around $246.8 million, the press release states.

Three-fourths of the allotment would have to be spent on roads or bridges or placed in a rainy day fund, the bill stipulates. Localities could spend the rest however they wish.

When the state distributes tax revenues to local governments, a reserve balance is withheld until it accumulates to more than 50 percent of a county’s annual receipt.

The excess balances have grown to the point that Hershman decided a one-time distribution from the accounts was feasible, according to his office.

Vigo County Commissioner Brad Anderson, who’d already been briefed by lawmakers on an upcoming House bill to address short-term road funding needs, said he was pleased to hear about the Senate proposal.

“That’s kind of something we’ve been working on,” he told the Tribune-Star, “and talking with our legislators and the county commissioners administration.”

Anderson said most of the county’s portion would be used for new road paving. Of the county’s 800 miles of road, he said, crews manage to repave about 20 miles per year.

Commissioner Jon Marvel said the money would also help tackle projects on the county’s five-year plan for roads and bridges, which is updated annually.

“It seems like every year after winter has hit us, that there is a road we didn’t know about or a bridge that we didn’t know about that needs [to be] repaired or replaced,” he said.

 

Reporter Nick Hedrick can be reached at 812-231-4232 or nick.hedrick@tribstar.com. Follow Nick on Twitter @TribStarNick.

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Nick Hedrick has been a reporter for the Tribune-Star since 2015. A 2012 graduate of Indiana State, he covered government and features for the (Winchester) News-Gazette and was editor of the Jackson County Banner before returning to Terre Haute.