Indiana power grab puts highways, trucking at risk

A bill working its way through the Indiana legislature opens the door to the possibility that truck-only lanes could be created along Interstate 70, potentially creating more efficiency and safety along the highway. That same bill, though, might give the Indiana governor dictator-like authority that could cost the industry billions in the end.

According to the Indiana Business Journal, Senate Bill 473 would grant the governor the sole authority to move quickly when a public infrastructure project presents itself, and that includes public-private partnerships, new road construction, and tolling opportunities.

While this would open the door to creating truck-only lanes that could decrease delivery times, shorten routes, lessen congestion, and improve overall road safety by separating trucks and automobiles along I-70, it also gives the governor, currently Mitch Daniels, the power to identify an opportunity and act upon it. This includes public-private partnerships that essentially amount to selling a section of road –either new or existing - to a private enterprise that would then recoup its investment through tolls.

“This thing has been designed to be under the radar,” Aaron Smith, founder of Watchdog Indiana, told the Business Journal of the bill. “It is not right for a single individual—the governor—to have complete power over toll road decisions. The impact of toll roads on working families is so significant that all 150 of our elected General Assembly public servants should continue to decide the fate of toll road projects.”

According to state Republican Sen. Tom Wyss, truck-only lanes are just one possibility. The governor’s press secretary Jane Jankowski said “there are no specific projects in mind.” In fact, Wyss said the only real purpose of this bill is to speed the decision-making process, and public hearings and a legislative review would still be part of the process. But in the end, the governor would have the final say.

So for any good that truck-only lanes could create, with only one person making the ultimate decision and removing the legislative process, the end result could be more tolls and that means higher costs. And as we’ve all learned through the history of this nation, when one person has the ultimate power, the end result is usually nothing good.