By Lauren Casey
On its fifth anniversary, Gov. Mitch Daniels praised Indiana's "Major Moves" transportation project for jumpstarting improvement on the state's infrastructure.
In 2006, the state entered into a $3.8 billion, 75-year lease with the Indiana Toll Road Concessionaire Company. Daniels said the state will continue to invest the money in long-term projects over the next few years.
"On the day we made the transaction, we knew it was a great moment for Indiana, and it looks better each passing year," Daniels said.
Some Democrats disagreed and said that there were problems with the state's roads that still have not been addressed.
"There is over a $4 million shortfall in local government needs," said Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson.
Daniels said the Major Moves project was the "jobs vote of the generation."
"The most important jobs are coming to the Crossroads of America because we are getting serious about improving our state's infrastructure," he said.
"Everything we do is aimed at bringing jobs to the state usually with government out, taxes down, but sometimes we need government to act aggressively and create first class infrastructure."
The governor said that because of Major Moves, 200 roads have been built, restored, or preserved, and one-third of the state's problem bridges have been repaired.
Major Moves, Daniels said, also has caused the state to reprioritize its projects based on what roads and projects are the most useful for the future of Indiana.
"We put jobs and economic value into the mix and decide which roads would lead to more jobs," Daniels said.
Daniels said he wants to deal with the issues and opportunities available today, rather than transfer funds into a mass transit project.
He said it would be "very foolish to leave our infrastructure problems unattended to chase projects of less or unknown economic value."
Daniels said that, though there will always be more roads to build or rebuild, Major Moves has helped to take a huge number off that list.
Daniels said the state has vastly better toll road systems and more troopers than ever before and that the number of congested highways across the state has dropped.
He said improvements will continue without any new taxes and that the project is under budget thanks to the Indiana Department of Transportation's managing of this budget.
"[We will] keep moving forward and capitalize on this opportunity."
Daniels said he hopes his successor will continue to augment these types of projects. However, he doesn't know if the state will ever make a deal this good again.
"We got a great deal with the state economy at that point in time. We hit the jackpot," Daniels said.
The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.