INDIANAPOLIS — An association of truck drivers is challenging the constitutionality of Gov. Eric Holcomb's increase of tolls for some commercial vehicles on Indiana's Toll Road as part of his Next Level Connections agenda.
The 160,000-member Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, based in Grain Valley, Mo.. has filed a federal lawsuit in Indianapolis saying proceeds from the increased tolls do not benefit truck drivers who use the 157-mile road.
The lawsuit states: "Plaintiffs do not attack the wisdom of the programs supported by the Next Level Connections Program. If those programs have value, however, they should be paid for by Indiana taxpayers. Funding these projects with toll receipts violates constitutional protections guaranteed to users of the Toll Road."
Also named as plaintiffs are two out-of-state trucking firms that have used the toll road and association member Mark Elrod, a Peru trucker who transports firewood. The lawsuit claims Elrod anticipates hauling freight over the toll road in the future.
Holcomb, who is named as a defendant with other agency heads, announced on Sept. 4 his Next Level Connections agenda which included $1 billion for investment in infrastructure programs. The funds are to expand broadband services, create more international flights, grow the state's trail systems and move up completion of major highway projects.
A fourth water port is also part of the plan.
To obtain the $1 billion, the Indiana Finance Authority amended its agreement with the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company (ITRCC), which operates the toll road, to increase toll fees for Class 3 heavy vehicles by 35 percent beginning last October. Those proceeds are to fund road projects in the seven counties along the toll road route.
An additional $50 million was to go into toll road upgrades. By 2025, the ITRCC is to invest more than $500 million in toll road upgrades.
Tolls on Class 3 vehicles rose from $16.33 to $22.04 for a complete trip of the toll road, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit notes that not all proceeds from the increased tolls are going to projects related to the toll road and "provide no benefit to the users of the toll road."
No response has yet been filed by the state to the lawsuit filed Wednesday.