Matt Greller, Aim Chief Executive Officer
In 2016, after years of work on behalf of cities and towns, a group of dedicated lawmakers led the charge to create the Community Crossings Matching Grant program, pass local option wheel tax authority, and institute new requirements for assessing and prioritizing transportation projects and funding.
The following year they continued their work with a sweeping transportation infrastructure bill, which included a more detailed framework and ongoing funding plan for Community Crossings. Among many other provisions, the 2017 legislation resulted in increased local revenues from various transportation funding formulas that had not been increased in decades, as well as a new fee to compensate the growing number of alternative fueled vehicles.
These comprehensive reforms were initiated by the Funding Indiana’s Roads for a Stronger Safer Tomorrow (FIRSST) Task Force, marking a true paradigm shift in the General Assembly, when the connection between quality of place and infrastructure was made. In short, when one sees a community that takes care of the basics and understands the importance of safe, well-maintained, and clean streets, the community is more attractive to potential residents and businesses.
And thanks to the requirement that each locality produce and update a detailed asset management plan, identifying the exact condition of their streets, the Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program now has actual information that quantifies our state’s infrastructure conditions.
City and town leaders are making headway on the overall condition of their streets. After decades of underfunding, there is still a long way to go. While the Indiana Department of Transportation has invested a staggering $1.27 billion in Community Crossings matching funds, with larger cities providing a 50% match and smaller communities 25%, and other funding sources like the gas and wheel taxes mentioned earlier have helped immensely, there are still funding gaps making it hard for locals to get ahead.
According to Brian Gould at the Build Indiana Council, a mile of asphalt resurfacing in a city or town can cost between $275,000 and $400,000. Communities are extremely grateful for the ongoing efforts by lawmakers and other stakeholders to target infrastructure as a key priority. However, with the high cost and volume of these projects, progress will be slow going.
The legislature has kept a keen eye on our state’s road, street, bridge, and highway network and understands the importance of keeping their foot on the gas (or charging station). The FIRSST Task Force is being resurrected during the interim and will look at how inflation and buying trends are impacting Indiana’s ability to maintain our infrastructure. In recognition of what’s at stake without safe, well-maintained municipal assets, Aim was offered a seat at the table for these discussions and looks forward to being an active partner.
As an organization we spend a lot of time advocating for the tools necessary to build quality places where people want to live, raise their pets or small humans, and enjoy a piece of the Hoosier landscape with all the amenities they expect. Towns and cities can’t be successful if we aren’t good at the basics, and infrastructure is one of those basics that serves a vital purpose and sends a loud message.
Let’s keep moving forward – there is too much at stake to get stuck in neutral.
SOURCE: Indiana Capital Chronicle