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(MARTINSVILLE, Ind.) – Higher tolls for trucks on the Indiana Toll Road will pay for a billion dollars in infrastructure projects.

Tolls for passenger vehicles won’t be affected, but trucks who travel the Toll Road end-to-end will pay an extra $6 to $34, depending on how big they are. $600 million of that will be used to connect the southern half of I-69 to Indianapolis by 2024, three years ahead of schedule.

The Bloomington-to-Martinsville leg of the highway is expected to be complete next week.

Another $190 million will pay for improvements to three northern Indiana highways. The state will repair bridges and resurface parts of U.S. 20 and 30. And INDOT will create new exits on U.S. 31 in Peru, Argos, southern Miami County, and the Hamilton-Tipton County line. When those projects are complete, two stoplights in Miami and Howard Counties will be the only ones remaining on 31 between Indianapolis and South Bend.

Governor Holcomb says the money will also create a $100 million grant program to expand broadband access to rural portions of Indiana, and a $90 million grant fund to add more hiking, biking and riding trails. And $20 million will go to the state’s ongoing efforts to add more nonstop international flights out of Indianapolis. Indy’s first nonstop transatlantic service, to Paris, began in May.

The Toll Road is allowed to raise tolls by 2{88985e72cdc23cc640478df67fb322de3b1b52d56709d5df1fff12157a74fef6} a year or by the rate of inflation or GDP growth, whichever is largest. The state struck a deal with the company which operates the toll road, allowing the larger increase in exchange for the state receiving $1 billion of the new money over three years. The Indiana Toll Road Concession Company Board will formalize the agreement later this month. The administration isn’t disclosing how much the company is expected to clear after giving the state its share — Holcomb says he hopes the company creates “the best toll road anywhere” and reaps the profits accordingly, but says it’s the company, not the state, that assumes the risk,

While Republican legislative leaders praised the deal, Democratic legislators from northern Indiana offered tepid to negative reactions. South Bend Senator David Niezgodski says he wishes the administration had consulted legislators, and says he’s concerned the tolling hike could hurt Hoosier trucking companies. And South Bend Representative and former House Speaker Patrick Bauer blasts the deal as “another tax increase” that will be passed along to consumers, and complains the money raised from truckers in northern Indiana will be spent in the Indianapolis area.

Holcomb says studies show most Toll Road drivers are from out of state, and notes the plans for the money include $190 million for three northern Indiana highways, including U.S. 20, which parallels the Toll Road and gives drivers an option to evade the tolls. And he argues the Toll Road is a state asset, not a northern Indiana one — he says it was the whole state which paid the bonds used to build the road, and absorbed the losses in years when it didn’t turn a profit.

(Photo: jakes47s/Thinkstock)