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Holiday traffic

Traffic is backed up on westbound I-94 last week near Gary recently due in part to road construction. The interstate is one that the state is studying for the possibility of tolling.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is taking the first steps toward fulfilling a mandate to evaluate the feasibility of tolling interstate highways, including interstates 65 and 94 through Northwest Indiana.

The agency on Friday issued a request for information asking advice on "planning an expeditious and effective tolling program deployment approach that can be expanded in a consistent manner."

INDOT is required to investigate tolling as part of House Enrolled Act 1002, passed this year by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, with the intention of pumping $5 billion into the state's roads and bridges. It will be funded by increased gas taxes and registration fees, and, potentially, interstate tolling.

The law requires INDOT to perform feasibility studies and seek a Federal Highway Administration waiver that would allow tolling.

A request for information, or RFI, is a formal information-gathering process that generally, but not necessarily, leads to issuance of a request for proposals, or an RFP, that would solicit consultants to do necessary planning work, including "environmental studies and other project development documentation."

Highways under consideration in the RFI are I-65, I-94 and I-70.

"INDOT anticipates pursuing a broad interstate bridge tolling program," according to the RFI. "The proposed actions are reconstruction and tolling of applicable bridges within the corridors and expansion of the current four-lane roadway sections to six lanes."

Responses to the RFI are due June 28.

INDOT also published a draft contract with the engineering firm HDR to create a tolling feasibility report for all the state's interstates. The agreement lists several tasks, including creating a project management plan, doing traffic and revenue analyses, performing a public survey to gauge support for tolling, and doing an assessment of potential economic impacts.

The report is due Oct. 31, according to the draft agreement.

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Transportation Reporter

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.