Indiana senator touts public-private pacts as transportation funding option

Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, welcomed Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana and current president of Purdue University, to a Thursday Senate Finance Committee hearing on transportation infrastructure finances.

“Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for convening this important hearing. I believe the topic is very timely, as this committee is currently searching for alternative methods to fund transportation improvements across the country,” Coats said. “As we discussed at last week’s Finance Committee hearing, the Highway Trust Fund can no longer pay for itself.”

“How do we plan to pay for all the additional spending necessary to secure our infrastructure?” Coats said. “Should we continue on with our current borrowing habits? That path is simply no longer tenable. I have long believed that we, as a country, should live within our means. This will require innovative thinking. It will require us to do more with the resources we have at our disposal. And it will require us to find new resources from non-traditional venues. That is the purpose of this hearing today. How can we ‘unlock the private sector’ to advance transportation improvements?”

“Public-private partnerships — or ‘P3s’ — get the private sector off the sidelines and put new resources to work to meet our growing transportation needs,” Coats said. “Of course, P3s won’t solve all our infrastructure problems, but as we look for new and innovative ways to pay for highways, I believe P3s can play an important role. I am pleased that former Governor Daniels is here to talk about a major P3 success in my home state of Indiana that demonstrates the benefits offered by such partnerships.”

“After his election in 2004, Daniels tasked his Cabinet with finding a way to fund the hundreds of road and bridge projects that had been promised for years,” Coats said. “They needed a solution that did not involve raising taxes or taking on more debt.

“He began exploring the feasibility of leasing the Indiana Toll Road to a private entity,” Coats said. “After a bidding process involving 11 proposals, a 75-year lease concession was awarded to a private consortium for a single lump-sum payment of $3.8 billion. That figure is nearly four times the yearly allocation that Indiana receives from the federal highway programs under MAP-21. Governor Daniels used the proceeds from the lease to fund a large number of highway construction and preservation projects under his monumental Major Moves initiative. Major Moves fully funded the state’s 10-year transportation plan, including 65 roadway projects and 720 bridges rehabilitated or replaced by 2012. Major Moves accelerated critical projects throughout the state, such as I-69, the Hoosier Heartland Highway, U.S. 31, Fort to Port and the Ohio River Bridges.”

“I welcome Governor Daniels to the committee and look forward to his testimony,” Coats said.