— Celebrating the next era of highway expansion in Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday ordered the release of $200 million in funding approved this year by the Indiana General Assembly for the state to use immediately on road projects.

Surrounded by construction workers and state lawmakers inside of an Indiana Department of Transportation garage, Pence said the funding will help improve Indiana’s infrastructure to maintain its logistical advantage. The Republican-controlled General Assembly also approved the ability for the state to release an additional $200 million after a review by the State Budget Committee, whose membership includes several key state lawmakers, and December’s revenue forecast is known.

“I’m absolutely convinced if you’re going to be the Crossroads of America, you better have the roads to back it up,” Pence said.

The up to $400 million in funding will pay for lane expansion projects on Interstate 65 and existing portions of Interstate 69 in Central Indiana. Though no projects from the newest round of funds are planned for Southwestern Indiana, the state has already identified funding to begin the next section of I-69 from Bloomington to Martinsville. The state will partner with a private developer to build and maintain that section. The state plans to pay the developer $80 million during construction of the 21-mile project and then $21.8 million a year for 35 years to maintain the road.

The first $200 million released Thursday will be used to expand I-65 between Indiana 44 near Franklin and Southport Road and I-65 in the Lafayette area from Indiana 38 to Indiana 26.

If the next round of funding is approved, the state will expand I-65 in the Lafayette area from Indiana 26 to Indiana 25, I-69 from Indiana 37 in Fishers to Indiana 13 in Madison County and I-65 from Sellersburg to Memphis in Clark County.

Pence signed the legislation into law last week but conducted the ceremonial bill signing on Thursday. INDOT has identified 20 specific areas of interstate for expansion to improve motorist safety and the ability to move freight, Pence said. The new funding — which had already been set aside in the state’s biennium budget but was approved this legislative session for use in roads projects — will begin to address those heavily-traveled areas.

Pence said most of the work will occur within existing rights of way and will add in the majority of cases two new travel lanes, one in each direction.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma (of Indianapolis) said the projects will support thousands of Hoosier jobs.

“It will relieve dangerous chokepoints on our highways where (INDOT) has identified are significant restrictions and safety issues,” Bosma said at Thursday’s event.

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