Why Roads Never Improve

by | Feb 12, 2023 | Uncategorized

Roads in Indianapolis never seem to improve. Why? Here’s an explanation from City-County Councilor Jared Evans for the problem with road funding in Indianapolis.

Street surfaces eventually deteriorate and increase damage to vehicles and traffic. Marion County is not only the most populous of Indiana’s 92 counties but also has the most roads and motor vehicles. However, Marion County’s streets are underfunded compared to others.  

In Indiana, roads are primarily funded by gas and wheel taxes – a tax based on motor vehicle registrations. The state collects these taxes and distributes them to municipalities like the City of Indianapolis. 

Center Line Miles

Funds are distributed according to a formula or road formula. The road formula measures the number of “center line” miles or the length of a road measured by its center line. This does not differentiate between a one-lane street, a six-lane highway, a four-way stop, or a major intersection. 

The problem is that Indianapolis has triple the lane miles as it does centerline miles. City-County Councilor Jared Evans explains that Marion County has 8,400 lane miles or 30,000 of the lane miles in the state. However, when measured by the centerline, Indianapolis has 3,400 miles and is allocated a fraction of what it needs to maintain its streets. 

Adjusted for traffic, Indianapolis receives $3.22 per vehicle mile traveled, according to Evans. However, the smallest county in the state – Ohio County – receives $19.15. 

The road formula needs to be balanced, and Evans is demanding change.

Population By County

The centerline calculation is only one complication. Another problem is population. Indianapolis is 14.5 percent of the population in Indiana, but it receives 11% of the road fund. The state calculates the population of Indianapolis with the original Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) map. This map is decades-old, with boundaries drawn before the consolidation of township fire departments. 

The IFD map excludes Center, Washington, Perry, Lawrence, Warren, Franklin Township, and other municipalities. The state needs to update its map to allocate funds for streets accurately. 

It’s estimated that Marion County would receive an additional $7 million a year if omitted populations in Pike, Wayne, and Decatur townships were included in the calculation.  

Evans contends that the 150,000 out-of-county commuters traveling throughout Marion County complicate the population problem. In Indiana, taxes are paid to the county of your residence. As a result, Indianapolis taxpayers have to subsidize commuter traffic throughout the region.

According to an internal audit, the state underfunded Marion County $75 million in the previous decade as it needed to account for township growth. The state acknowledged the error and corrected the formula. 

Jared Evans claims Marion County contributes more tax revenue than it receives. Meanwhile, commuter traffic and the cost of road maintenance have increased. Without proportionate funding, Indianapolis taxpayers will labor to pay the difference.

Community Crossing Fund

The road formula and population maps are challenging for Marion County. Another hardship is the Community Crossing Fund (CCF) program. 

Launched in 2016, the CCF program was formed as a matching grant program to help local governments fund improvements to roads and bridges. Grants are limited to $1 million per municipality per calendar year. 

In 2021, Marion County contributed an estimated $22.3M to the program, representing 12% of CCF revenue. However, on an annual basis, Marion County receives 2% of the awards or $0.12 for every dollar Indianapolis contributes to the program. 

Contact Indiana Senate and House

In conclusion, the reason Indianapolis roads never seem to improve is a problem with state legislation. Jared Evans and the City-County Council urge residents and business operators to contact the Republican leadership in the Indiana Senate and petition lawmakers to adjust the road formula. 

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