Late last year, Indiana’s infamous toll road raised its tolls by 35% for trucks only. Now the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is challenging the increase in court. The group claims that the increases are unconstitutional.
In September of 2018, Indiana’s Governor, Eric Holcomb, announced that tolls on I-80 and I-90 in Indiana would be increasing by 35% for Class 3 vehicles and above. In exchange for allowing the private company who operates the Indiana Toll Roads to increase tolls on truckers, the state would receive three payments totaling $1 billion.
According to Holcomb, the $1 billion will be spent on infrastructure improvements. That includes money to speed up construction of I-69, expand rural broadband internet access, improve hiking and biking trails, put incentives in place to attract more flights to the state’s airports, and fund projects on U.S. Routes 20, 30, and 31.
As part of the agreement, the Indiana Toll Roads Concession Co. agreed to spend an additional $50 million on toll road improvements.
OOIDA is filing the federal lawsuit alongside Utah-based Chutka Trucking LLC, Indiana truck driver Mark Elrod and Ohio-based B.L. Reever Transport Inc. They claim that because the $1 billion is going to projects that aren’t related to the toll road, the tolls are discriminatory towards out-of-state truckers.
“The governor has admitted publicly that the increased tolls on truckers were intended for out-of-state users,” said Todd Spencer, president of OOIDA. “He seems to think that, in his own words, ‘capturing other people’s money’ is OK. He would be very wrong about that.”
OOIDA also claims that once the toll increase went into effect, truckers were paying more than “a fair approximation of the toll payer’s use of the tolled facilities,” which is a violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“Truckers are not rolling piggy banks,” added Spencer.
The lawsuit names not just the state of Indiana, but also the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company, the Indiana Finance Authority, and multiple state officials including Gov. Holcomb and Indiana DOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness.
“We do not believe there is any issue of constitutionality regarding the transaction,” Gov. Holcomb’s spokeswoman Rachel Hoffmeyer said. “We will vigorously defend the lawsuit.”
OOIDA is seeking for overturn the toll increases and have the extra tolls already collected returned the to truckers and companies who paid them.