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More tolling

Traffic backups are common along westbound I-94 near Gary. The state is considering five corridors for tolling including I-94 from Illinois to Michigan.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is taking the next step toward instituting tolling on interstate highways by requesting proposals from firms interested in developing a strategic plan and doing other preparatory planning.

INDOT posted a request for proposals, or RFP, to do the work on Tuesday. The agency expects to select a firm by Jan. 26.

The state is considering five corridors for tolling: I-94 from Illinois to Michigan; I-65 from I-90 south to I-465 and then south from I-465 to the Ohio River; and I-70 from the Illinois state line to I-465, then from I-465 to the Ohio state line. It is also considering tolling in Indianapolis.

Tolling of an interstate highway, bridge or tunnel is reglated by federal law and requires Federal Highway Administration approval.

"INDOT anticipates pursuing a broad interstate bridge tolling program," the agency said in announcing the RFP.

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The work will follow on a study under way by the engineering firm HDR, which will provide a traffic and revenue analysis that will, among other things, consider the economic impact of tolling as well as its economic feasibility and the optimal toll rates. The study will also contemplate ways to mitigate the impact of tolling on commuters and other local and in-state drivers.

Creation of a strategic plan is the next step in the process, as mandated by the state legislature in the sweeping transportation legislation signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb at the end of this year's General Assembly.

In addition to the strategic plan, the RFP requires the selected firm to determine what environmental studies will be necessary to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, and to develop the methodologies to accomplish them. It also must perform traffic, environmental justice and other studies associated with NEPA studies.

The RFP calls for the completion of environmental studies for Indianapolis interstates, and to serve in an advisory capacity regarding studies in the other interstate corridors. Those studies will be subject of a subsequent RFP.

The legislation mandating the studies sets a Dec. 1, 2018 deadline for completion of the strategic plan.

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Assistant Deputy Editor

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.