Monday, June 11th, 2012
The Indianapolis Star finally did a report this weekend covering the ridiculousness of Indiana taxpayers and motorists paying for a $255 million “tunnel under the trees” in Kentucky as part of the Ohio River bridges project.
Their article is a good one, and reveals that Kentucky officials deliberately listed the property as historic to drive up the cost of the bridge project as a poison pill attempt. Though the headline should better have been phrased as a question: “Why Exactly Is Indiana Paying $255 to Tunnel Under Kentucky’s Trees?” The only answer seems to be because Mitch Daniels wants to.
The idea of Indiana paying for a useless $255 million tunnel in Kentucky is the most easy to grasp ludicrousness in this project, but far from the worst element. It’s too bad the Star did not examine other even more troubling problems, such as:
- As the Star’s own graphic shows, Indiana is actually spending $737.5 million on roadway in Kentucky. That’s over $100,000 per foot! You could probably literally gold plate the road for that. It’s more expensive than any project anywhere in Indiana. It is more than combined cost of the Indiana side of the river plus the new bridge.
- The two states managed to take $1.5 billion in cost out of the project – good. But as part of that Indiana’s cost actually went up by $200 million while Kentucky’s went down by $1.7 billion – hello?!?!
- The Star reports that Indiana and Kentucky will evenly split money from the bridge tolls – news to me – even though Hoosier motorists will pay $5 million more per year than Kentuckians. So not only is Indiana paying more than it’s fair share on a cost basis (including that $737 million in Kentucky) – it’s also shipping a huge chunk of Hoosier money across the river ever year to help Kentucky pay for its part of the project. Hoosiers will pay fully 74% of all local tolls collected on the bridges.
In short, it just doesn’t get much dumber than this.
It’s stunning to me that, to burnish his legacy by getting a bridge project done that had eluded both states for 40 years, Mitch Daniels is willing to throw Hoosier taxpayers and motorists under the bus like this. This is a deal that will live in infamy as Indiana’s worst transportation finance decision since the 1830s epic canal fiasco that bankrupted the state. I cannot think of another governor in modern times who so clearly acted contrary to his own constituents’ financial interests in a transportation project.
Again, I am 100% four square behind building the East End bridge as a key state priority – I just don’t think it’s worst giving away upwards of a billion dollars the state didn’t need to in order to do it.
I’ve written extensively on this project before, so won’t reprise it all here. But you can read much more at: