Indiana Toll Road tolls go up Thursday

2010-06-30T00:00:00Z 2010-06-30T08:09:30Z Indiana Toll Road tolls go up ThursdayBY KEITH BENMAN 219.933.3326

Tolls on the Indiana Toll Road will increase 10 percent on Thursday, as its private operator implements a four-year "catch-up" provided for under its lease with the State of Indiana.

With the 10 percent increase to be implemented Thursday, the cost of driving the roadway's entire 157 miles will rise to $8.80, according to private operator ITR Concession Co.

Tolls collected on the Toll Road are being plowed back into maintenance and improvements like the current $10 million bridge rehabilitation project, said ITR spokeswoman Amber Scott.

The Toll Road has seen only one toll increase for cars since it was privatized in 2006. That was when electronic tolling was installed in 2008 and the price of running the length of the road went up to $8 from $4.65 previously.

Under a last-minute change in its lease with the state in 2006, private operator ITR Concession Co. had to delay implementation of annual toll increases until this year. The move was designed to placate lease critics.

For the next 71 years on July 1, there will be an increase in tolls equal to the greater of either 2 percent, the previous year's change in the consumer price index or the change in nominal per capita gross domestic product, according to the lease agreement.

The Toll Road lease was structured to protect motorists from any exorbitant increases in tolls, and it has been successful in that regard, according to Leigh Morris, deputy commissioner for Toll Road oversight at the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Cars with electronic transponders such as I-Zoom or I-Pass will see no increase in tolls Thursday. That is because of another political deal that froze tolls for all transponder users until 2016. Those motorists are still paying the toll rates in effect in 1985.

"In order to avoid the increase in tolls, the transponder is the best defense," Morris said.

There are currently 110,000 I-Zoom transponders in circulation, according to Scott.

ITR Concession Co. collected $149.6 million in toll revenue in 2009 on the Toll Road, compared to $147.5 million the year before, according to annual financial statements from its direct parent company Statewide Mobility Partners.

Truckers have carried most of the freight when it comes to toll increases, with the toll for trucks currently at $32 for running the length of the roadway, up from just $18 when the lease was signed.

The increase going into effect Thursday will effect all vehicle classes including trucks.

Indiana Toll Road tolls have remained in the middle of the pack or slightly below when compared to other toll roads since the roadway was privatized in 2006. In recent years, some state toll road authorities have implemented sharp increases due to tight budgets and declining state revenues.

A study done last year by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission pegged the cost per mile for a car on the Indiana Toll Road at 5.1 cents. For trucks the figure was 20.4 cents. That compares to 6 cents per mile for cars on the Tri-State Tollway in Illinois and 30 cents per mile for trucks on that roadway.



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