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January 2, 2013

THEIR OPINION: Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

Daniels hands off I-69 baton to Pence

It was perhaps Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ ability to step outside the box, and view challenges without preconceived notions that allowed him to do what seemed nearly impossible eight years ago — push through the construction of Interstate 69 between Evansville and Crane during his two terms in office.

Now that Daniels is leaving the office, his successor, fellow Republican Mike Pence, might benefit from Daniel’s approach. Indeed, it will be up to Pence to see Interstate 69 is completed to Indianapolis — not an easy task, given there is no pot of state money designated for the Bloomington-to-Indianapolis stretch of the long-sought highway.

Daniels faced the same dilemma when he took office eight years ago, but in short order he came up with the Major Moves initiative. The state leased the Indiana Toll Road to a private consortium for $3.8 billion. That money was used to build the Evansville-to-Crane section of I-69, as well as other major projects around the state. But that money is either spent or committed. Traditional means are being used to pay for I-69 from Crane to Bloomington, but it will take a new plan for financing the Bloomington-to-Indianapolis link, and that will be Pence’s responsibility. As we said, he might benefit from considering Daniels’ approach.

“If people will be simply a little bit open-minded to new approaches like this — which I’ve been pointing out for six years, are completely customary in the rest of the world; only in America do we think the only way to build a road is the gas tax — it may not be a complete answer, but that’s got to be part of the answer,” Daniels said in a news story by Courier & Press staff writer Eric Bradner.

Daniels was referring to public-private partnerships and the fact an Ohio River bridge near Louisville will be built with private money that will be repaid through tolls.

Pence agreed a private-public partnership is one of various options that will be considered by a blue-ribbon panel he will appoint to study Indiana’s infrastructure and funding needs. He says he is committed to finishing the Evansville-to-Indianapolis highway.

Pence said, “We’re going to finish that work. We’re going to find out where to do it, we’re going to find out how to do it, but we’re going to do it.”

Meanwhile, the Indiana Department of Transportation is welcoming input from private concerns about how Indiana might complete I-69.

Good. Between Pence and his blue-ribbon panel, INDOT and its open-door policy on ideas, and the example set by Daniels of thinking outside the box, perhaps Indiana will find a way to speed I-69 through Bloomington and on to Martinsville during the Pence administration.

— Evansville Courier & Press

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