Indiana's governor is celebrating the five-year anniversary of Major Moves: the biggest infrastructure project in state history. The project was paid for with the lease of the Indiana Toll Road. But a new report suggests the company that leases it may have financial struggles.
Governor Mitch Daniels toured the state Wednesday - touting what Major Moves has done for the state. One of the projects includes the new U.S. 31 from South Bend to Indianapolis. The billions of dollars to pay for projects like that came from leasing the Toll Road. But according to a report by Debtwire, the company that operates the interstate may be facing financial troubles.
Governor Mitch Daniels still has the bank statement from five years ago -- when the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company entered into a 75-year lease agreement for the operation and maintenance of the toll road.
"Five years ago at 11:17 a.m. I had the once in a lifetime opportunity watching 3.8 billion dollars transfer from somewhere in the world to the state of Indiana," said Daniels as he spoke to a group gathered at the Indiana State Police post in Bristol.
That transaction became known as the Major Moves Project which has allowed Indiana to invest in multiple road and bridge projects. Wednesday, the governor toured the state celebrating this anniversary.
But it is not a celebration for everyone. A recent news article claims the company operating the toll road is facing financial trouble. ITR Concession Company is a partnership between and Austrailian company and a Spanish company. Spokesmen for both those companies wouldn't comment on Debtwires article. Still Indiana Toll Road drivers are concerned.
"It is getting pricy!" said Janet Corning from Crown Point, "and that is just what we need...more cost!"
The Cornings are concerned these potential financial issues could mean toll road rates could go up. But Governor Daniels says drivers are protected. He says the company can't raise prices much higher than the cost of inflation due to the terms of the lease contract.
And while a spokesperson for the Indiana Toll Road operator says the company will continue to to meet its debt service obligations, the governor says, even if they don't, drivers won't see much of a change.
"If a new set of investors decided they wanted a different operator we have approval rights," said Daniels, "if ever this regulated utility doesn't line up to every comma in that 200 page contract, as a last resort we take the road back and keep the money."