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A New Indiana Toll Road Wouldn't Look Like the Old One

Holcomb has ruled out new tolls on his watch, but INDOT study foresees no-stop electronic tolling instead of old-style tollbooths

(INDIANAPOLIS) - If Indiana ever adds new toll roads, it won't add tollbooths with it.

An INDOT study of tolls on I-65, 70 and the Borman Expressway portion of I-94 envisions open-road tolling, where cameras and electronic sensors lock in on either your license plate or a chip on your windshield to identify and bill you. INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness says it's more convenient for drivers not to have to line up every few miles to pay their tolls.

The discussion is hypothetical for the foreseeable future. McGuinness says planning and building a toll road would take five years before the first toll is collected, and Governor Holcomb has declared he won't pursue the idea. But legislators ordered INDOT to study how tolling might work, and Holcomb says the resulting analysis will serve as a "how-to manual" for future governors considering tolls.

INDOT looked only at 65, 70 and 94. McGuinness says those are Indiana's most-traveled interstates, and thus would bring the quickest payoff for the money spent on installing tolling equipment. Tolling those roads would involve adding new lanes to meet federal requirements for allowing tolls. INDOT estimates it would cost $7.2 billion over 12 years to turn those highways into toll roads. But by floating bonds, the department calculates it would still average more than a half-billion a year in profit during construction. By 2060, with most of the debt paid off, it estimates profits at seven times that.

INDOT based its projections on a toll of a nickel per mile for cars. The study says other toll roads charge anywhere from four-to-10-cents per mile, with the existing Indiana Toll Road right in the middle, at seven cents a mile.

(Photo: Mikhail Tereshchenko/Tass via Getty Images)

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