Gov. Holcomb outlines Next Level Connections program

Gov. Holcomb outlines Next Level Connections program
Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) of Indiana (Source: IN.gov)

MARTINSVILLE, IN (WAVE) - Governor Eric Holcomb has announced his infrastructure agenda plan for 2019, including a new $1 billion investment in infrastructure projects.

The Next Level Connections program will expand broadband services in rural Indiana, grow the state’s systems of trails, create more nonstop international flights, and move up the completion of major highway projects. The state also will continue to pursue building a new fourth water port at Lawrenceburg and expansion of rail projects in northwest Indiana.

Through the Next Level Connections program, Gov. Holcomb will:

  • Commit $100 million to bridge the digital divide in rural areas of the state. The state will create a grant program to bring high speed, affordable broadband access to unserved and underserved areas of the state. 
  •  Utilize $90 million to link communities through more hiking, biking and riding trails. The state will initiate a grant program that encourages local and regional collaboration to grow the state’s trails system. 
  • Complete major highway projects
  • Establish Indianapolis as the preferred Midwestern destination by adding more nonstop international flights ($20 million)
  • Complete evaluation of the purchase of land to develop the state’s fourth port on the Ohio River near Lawrenceburg
  • Pursue federal funding for the West Lake and South Shore rail projects in Northwest Indiana

The Indiana Finance Authority will amend its agreement with the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company (ITRCC), which operates the Indiana Toll Road, to allow ITRCC to increase the toll rates for heavy vehicles by 35 percent, beginning in October. The $1 billion in proceeds from the amended ITRCC agreement will be used to fund planned road projects in the seven Toll Road counties, which will free up INDOT resources to be directed to the Next Level Connections program.

As a part of the new agreement, ITRCC will put $50 million into additional Toll Road upgrades, including safety, technology and communications initiatives such as a smart truck parking system and expansion of overhead message boards, cameras and variable speed signs. Over 10 years, by 2025, ITRCC will invest more than $500 million in Toll Road upgrades.

The toll increase will impact Class 3 and above vehicles. For example, the tolls for a Class 3 vehicle will increase from $16.33 to $22.04 (electronic card) for the entire 157-mile trip. For a Class 5 vehicle, the toll will increase from $44.46 to $60.02. The IFA will consider the agreement at a meeting later this month. With the increase, the rate per mile will remain lower than nearly all other similar roads across the country.

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