INDIANAPOLIS — Currently, for those who live in La Porte County and wish to travel to Chicago, there are three primary options.
One could take the South Shore Line train, travel via the Indiana Toll Road or travel for “free” via I-94.
Earlier this year, the Indiana Department of Transportation announced plans to explore the possibility of adding new tolling throughout the state, including in corridors that pass through La Porte County and Northwest Indiana — most notably in this area, that includes I-94.
Indiana House Enrolled Act 1002 required INDOT to study the feasibility of additional tolling, and a report generated by HDR Inc. indicated the state could expect to generate between $39-53 billion over a 30-year time period from 2021-2050.
In justifying a need to explore additional tolling, the report states, “While advances in fuel efficiency are good for consumers, they have a negative impact on road funding. As fuel consumption decreases, road funding drive from fuel taxes also decreases.”
One possible resolution to this issue that state lawmakers are considering is an increased gas tax. Another is additional tolling.
“A potential statewide tolling program could help Indiana prepare for the expected decrease in fuel consumption by tying transportation funding to the amount of travel on Indiana’s highways,” the report states.
The HDR study assumed a toll rate of 4 cents per mile (except for the I-64 corridor) for passenger vehicles (6 cents per mile for light/medium trucks and 19 cents per mile for heavy trucks) and assumes electronic toll collection that would take place for toll transponder tied to an electronic account. Drivers without a transponder, the report said, would pay an additional $2 surcharge to cover the cost of toll collection via mail, for the purposes of this study.
HDR’s report also pointed out the difficulties in making long-term projections such as these, stating “the amount of traffic on a tolled interstate depends on a number of interrelated factors such as population growth, macroeconomic trends, fuel prices, the availability of alternate routes and the traveling preferences of millions of individual drivers.”
Also, the report discusses the fact that heavy trucks are “responsible for a significant portion of toll revenues. They are also the most likely to seek alternate free routes” once a road is tolled.
The areas explored included I-94 (Michigan state line to Illinois state line, 45 miles); I-65 (Gary to Indianapolis, 153 miles); I-64 (New Albany to Illinois state line, 123 miles); I-69 (Fort Wayne to Indianapolis, 105 miles); I-70 (Indianapolis to Illinois state line, 81 miles) and I-74 (Indianapolis to Ohio state line, 84 miles).
The estimated total cost for traveling the entire toll route, with a transponder, would be (at 4 cents per mile for passenger vehicles, unless otherwise noted):
• I-64: $7.38 (a rate of six cents per mile was applied).
The report estimated that the state could expect to see the following ranges in revenue:
• I-94: $2.9-3.7 billion.
• I-65: $12.1-16.2 billion.
• I-64: $5.6-8.5 billion.
• I-70: $6.9-9.1 billion.
• I-74: $3.2-4.2 billion.
These are just base revenue estimates and do not take into account things like installation of tolling structures and equipment.
The HDR report indicated that INDOT estimates nearly 370 gantries would be needed for a statewide tolling program, and that each gantry would cost around $1 million. From there, ongoing costs would include maintenance, back-office operations to process payments, customer service and enforcement. The report indicates a probably collection cost ranging from 7 to 13 percent of toll revenue.
Also, insurance for a statewide tolling program is estimated to cost around $1.3 million per year.
In addition, the report assumes that I-65 and I-70 corridors would be widened to six lanes from border to border.
The report also assumes that tolls are applied evenly to all traffic, but points out “Indiana could explore varying its toll structure for local, commuter and in-state traffic.