If Indianapolis’ crumbling streets weren’t proof enough, a new study commissioned by the city provides even more evidence that Indiana’s road funding formula for local governments needs a complete rebuild. .
The study put an exclamation point on what Indianapolis leaders have been saying for years: the current formula unfairly favors rural counties with sparse traffic and fewer carriageway lanes.
But it added a new twist. Indiana’s urban areas, from Gary to Evansville, aren’t the only ones hurt by the formula. As IBJ’s Peter Blanchard reported last week, suburban counties with growing populations and miles of new roads are also getting raw supply.
The problem with the current formula is that it distributes gas tax funds and other revenues by centerline miles rather than the federal standard of miles traveled by vehicles.
Centerline miles simply measure the length of a road, while vehicle miles traveled per capita is calculated as the total annual miles traveled by a vehicle in a particular county or region divided by its population.
A new analysis from Policy Analytics LLC shows that Indianapolis and Marion County rank last in state highway funding among Indiana’s 92 counties when vehicle miles traveled are considered.
Marion, the state’s most populous county, receives just $3.22 per vehicle mile traveled, while Ohio County, the state’s smallest, receives the most at $19.15 .
All suburban counties surrounding Marion receive less than the median of $10.42. Of those counties, Hendricks is the hardest hit, ranking 90th at $3.62. Hamilton ranks 86th at $3.97.
The analysis goes a long way to explaining why Indianapolis, the state’s biggest economic engine, doesn’t have enough money to maintain its streets. The city estimates that it faces a funding shortfall of $1 billion a year for roads and transportation infrastructure.
The Indiana Department of Transportation recently started another program to help fund local roads, but even that didn’t help Indianapolis much.
Dan Parker, Mayor Joe Hogsett’s new chief of staff and the city’s outgoing public works chief, said the city contributes about $22 million a year to the state’s community crossings program but only qualifies for around $1 million in return.
Taken as a whole, the state funding plan for local streets is sorely lacking in Indiana’s urban areas. Now, we also know it’s hurting Indianapolis’ suburban counties, which account for much of the state’s growth.
This knowledge demands that the state’s urban and suburban mayors band together to persuade Indiana’s often rural-focused legislature to change the road funding formula or come up with alternative programs that take into account adequate transportation needs of the economic and population centers of the state.
The state’s future as a logistics hub and its appeal to new businesses and residents depends on meaningful change.•
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