Plaintiffs hoping to halt Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ plan to lease the Indiana Toll Road to a foreign consortium for $3.8 billion saw their efforts flounder this week. The Indiana Supreme Court ordered the plaintiffs — the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana and seven individuals, including an owner-operator — to pay a $1.9 billion bond for the case to proceed, according to the Indianapolis Star. Plaintiffs say the task is impossible, and the order puts an end to their lawsuit.
Dave Menzer, a Citizens Action Coalition spokesman, said plaintiffs were “disappointed with the court’s ruling.” The 4-0 ruling, announced Tuesday, June 20, came just 10 days before the 75-year deal between Indiana and Statewide Mobility Partners is to be finalized. Already approved by the state Legislature and signed by Davis, the $3.8 billion lease is part of the governor’s $10.6 billion Major Moves plan to pay for new road construction projects across the state. Daniels says the projects will lead to thousands of new jobs and new investments across the state.
The Citizens Action Coalition filed suit in March, charging that the Major Moves plan violated state law. Among several arguments, Menzer said any proceeds from the sale of public utilities in Indiana must be used to pay public debt. Yet, a St. Joseph Superior Court judge ruled May 26 that the plan only leases — not sells — the Toll Road. The lower court ordered the $1.9 billion bond to be paid for the court case to proceed.
State lawyers had argued that any delay in the lease could cost Indiana millions of dollars. Statewide Mobility Partners, a business owned by the Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia and Cintra Concessions de Infraestructuras de Transport S.A. of Spain, had the option of walking away from the lease deal before the closing date of June 30.
Menzer remains adamantly opposed. “The big issue is that the vast majority of the public here in Indiana and nationwide don’t like the idea of carving up the nation’s freeway system,” he says. The Citizens Action Coalition now will concentrate on ensuring that legislators who voted for the Toll Road lease are defeated in future elections. Opposition to the plan won’t touch Daniels; on his second term, he won’t be running again.