Indiana legislators consider improvements to road construction grant program

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers are looking at ways to improve a state grant program that’s critical to many local road construction projects.

The Interim Study Committee on Roads and Transportation met Tuesday to discuss Community Crossings grants, which have been distributed since 2016. According to local officials, the grants have been critical to getting some road construction projects done.

“Community Crossings as a match is very important, especially to the communities here in northern Indiana that deal with the weather during the winter,” said LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody.

“In my time working with cities and towns that spans nearly 20 years, I think it’s probably the most important program that the state has put together for local governments,” said Matt Greller, CEO of Accelerate Indiana Municipalities.

But some local officials and state lawmakers feel the current $1 million limit per grant could be restrictive for larger communities.

For example, Indianapolis residents contribute an estimated $20 million to the program each year through the gas tax and vehicle registration fees, according to Indy DPW Director Dan Parker. Still, the city is limited to $1 million in Community Crossings grants each year, Parker said.

“I know that there are some concerns from some of our larger cities in Indiana,” Greller said. “I think there’s concerns from smaller communities as well about fairness in the funding formula.”

Lawmakers are now considering raising the maximum amount allowed per grant.

“I could see some of them being in the $5 million award range,” said State Rep. Jim Pressel (R-LaPorte), who serves as vice chair for the interim study committee. “Can be a smaller stepping stone to $2 million.”

Lawmakers want to make sure that if they do enact this change, smaller communities don’t lose any funding, Pressel said.

“It’s key to understand we don’t want to take away anything from anyone that’s getting it now,” Pressel said. “Is there an opportunity for partnerships to make a grant larger?”

Lawmakers may consider ways to bring additional funding into the program, Pressel said.

Meanwhile, some local officials say they welcome any change that will cover more of the costs of local projects.

“We are an older community that may have $30 million worth of work to do,” Mayor Dermody said. “We will take any help.”

Any proposed legislation would not be discussed until next session.

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