After begging for more infrastructure funding for years, local governments in Indiana are finally getting their wish: Millions of more dollars from the state to repair the crumbling roads and bridges in their communities.
The $30 billion budget deal reached by House and Senate leaders with Gov. Mike Pence earmarks more than $215 million in new road funding annually for the next two fiscal years, with about $100 million of that projected for counties, cities and towns.
It marks the first increase in road funding for local communities in more than a decade.
Matt Groeller, head of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns called it the best news to come out of the 2013 legislative session.
“It’s something cities and towns have been asking for, for many years,” Groeller said. “It’s desperately needed for economic development. Without good roads, communities suffer, schools suffer, the local economy suffers. We don’t have anything if we don’t have good roads.”
Officials with the Indiana Association of Counties were just as celebratory. The final budget deal reached late Thursday makes all counties eligible for the extra road money as soon as July 1. It deletes language added by the Senate that required counties to have an excise surtax or wheel tax to tap into the new road funding.
“This was our No. 1 priority this year,” said association head David Bortoff. “There was nothing more important.”
The additional road funding is significant, given a decade of decline: Between 2000 and 2010, the major sources of road repair money collected by the state and doled out to local governments dropped by about $100 million.
During that time, good roads went bad and bad roads went to pot. Both Bortoff and Groeller said there are small and rural communities around the state that let their paved roads turn back into gravel because they could no afford to repair them.