When Gov. Eric Holcomb announced his Next Level Connections program last week, he detailed spending $1 billion to improve and complete road construction projects, boost international flights, create a fourth water port, further develop the South Shore commuter railroad, provide a matching fund to help local trail projects and enable more rural broadband development.
Quite an effort to expand Hoosier connectivity!
While all of these are important for the state as a whole, our local area will benefit enormously since the package includes steps toward upgrading U.S. 31 to freeway status between South Bend and Indianapolis. The impressive set of infrastructure projects includes four new interchanges for U.S. 31: State Road 18 in southern Miami County, Business 31 in Peru; State Road 10 in Argos and 236th Street at the Hamilton/Tipton county line.
Renegotiating toll rates with the Indiana Toll Road’s managing entity for certain commercial vehicles will bring those rates closer to market rates, and will continue to be lower than most states with toll roads, including Illinois. Since most Toll Road users are from out of state, it primarily will be out-of-state truckers who’ll pay more. Passenger car rates will remain unchanged.
These increases will provide the state with an additional $1 billion in three installments over the next three years, funding the numerous projects that will benefit Hoosiers and improve our quality of life.
U.S. 31 is a high-priority, “let’s finish what we started” freeway project. Gov. Holcomb is to be commended for incorporating the interchanges into his Next Level Connections program. They are substantial investments which will bring us much closer to a freeway that will provide our area a “next level connection” with our state capital.
Indiana’s commitment to a first-class network of highways and to enhance livability in communities across the state will receive a major boost from the governor’s proposal.
Joe Zakas is a Republican member of the Indiana Senate representing the 11th District where he has served since 1982.