Infrastructure announcement reportedly set as lawmakers weigh in on INDOT asphalt investigation

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INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 12, 2015) – Gov. Mike Pence is expected to make an announcement regarding Indiana’s infrastructure Tuesday, according to our newsgathering partners at the Indianapolis Star, which reports the announcement is  likely aimed at improving roads.

The announcement would come amidst an investigation by the Indiana Department of Transportation, looking into potentially bad asphalt used on nearly 200 recent road projects.

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said at a news conference last week road funding will be the legislature’s top priority when the session begins in January.

“That is dealing with infrastructure needs that have been quite apparent,” he said.

Already, though, serious questions are being raised about the current state of Hoosier roadways.

On Monday the Indiana Democratic Party launched an online campaign, trying to persuade Hoosiers to post their own pictures of crumbling roads.

“What occurs to me is someone is taking their eye off the ball here,” State Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) said in a recent interview.

INDOT’s investigation, ongoing inside its state labs, is continuing to comb through 172 asphalt projects statewide, questioning whether contractors used bad asphalt that would crumble roads years ahead of schedule.

Pence has been routinely briefed on the progress, praising state transportation officials for their work.

“Throughout the investigation the last two years, we’ve worked very closely with the Federal Highway Administration,” Pence said last week. “This has really been a joint federal and state inquiry.”

But one contractor, Fort Wayne-based Brooks Construction, has pointed the finger at INDOT, refusing to give into the state’s demands to pay $5 million or redo a three-mile stretch of crumbling roadway in Cass County.

A growing number of people, including the editorial board at the Muncie Star Press, have called for an independent investigation.

Bosma said that’s not needed.

“If we had an independent investigation of every problem that came up before state government, you all would be out of the media and in the independent investigation business,” he said. “So it’s just not necessary, to my knowledge with what I know today.”

What has become evident is the infrastructure debate has turned contentious and political, as the state leaders look to not only the future but immediate problems along Indiana roads.

“I think as the facts come out, people are going to see this was a case where INDOT was diligent in making sure taxpayers get what they pay for,” Pence said. “We’ll stay after that.”

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