Although much of my first legislative session has been dedicated to crafting our state’s biennial budget, I have also enjoyed working with members on the Roads and Transportation Committee to advance policies to maintain and improve Indiana’s infrastructure. Specifically, I wanted to highlight two bills the House passed that would strengthen our transportation system in southwest Indiana.
In addition to maintaining our commitment to fiscal integrity, House Bill (HB) 1001, our proposed budget, makes an annual appropriation of $200 million to the 2020 Major Highway Trust Fund. Established in the 2013 biennial budget by House Republicans, this fund can only be used to finance highway expansion projects by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) with approval from the Budget Committee. With additional funding to this fund, critical transportation needs in our community and state can continue to be addressed.
One of those needs is the six-section expansion of I-69 from Evansville to Indianapolis. At the moment, sections 1 through 3 are complete, open to traffic and connect Evansville to the Naval Support Activity Crane facility. Section 4, from Crane to Bloomington, is scheduled to open later this year and construction on section 5, connecting Bloomington to Martinsville, should be finished in two years. However, the construction of the last and sixth section, connecting Martinsville and Indianapolis, faces a potential roadblock.
Under current law, interstate highway construction is prohibited in a township having a population of more than 100,000 but less than 110,000 citizens. This affects Perry Township, which is a potential area of construction for section 6. Rep. John Price authored HB 1036 which would give INDOT the ability to study all possible routes to determine the least expensive and most environmentally-friendly route from Martinsville to Indianapolis. While this bill could allow for I-69 to be built in Perry Township, it does not dictate where the highway would in fact be built.
I believe the completion of I-69, connecting Evansville to Indianapolis, is important to maintaining southwest Indiana’s economic vitality. Since I-69 passes through Daviess and Pike counties, it could provide increased access to employment opportunities, education and commerce for our community while also connecting our area of the state to the rest of Indiana. I was pleased HB 1036 passed out of the Roads and Transportation Committee and out of the House with a vote of 83-11.
I am pleased that attention has been drawn to local road issues in southwest Indiana. INDOT commissioner, Karl Browning, personally visited Dubois County to see the poor condition of Highway 231 and its accessibility to industrial areas. He also observed our need for repair and enhancements as well as a connection from I-64 to I-69.
We have made great strides to improve the quality of our state’s infrastructure, and I am proud that we have continued that progress this legislative session. I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts or concerns regarding HB 1036, our proposed budget or other issues concerning our community and state. I can be reached at (317) 234-9447 or email@example.com.
Rep. Braun (R-Jasper) represents portions of Daviess, Dubois, Pike and Martin Counties. He serves on the Roads and Transportation Committee and Ways and Means Committee.