Pandemic leaves county short of funds for road projects
Elkhart County has hit the brakes on the summer road paving program while facing a roadblock in the form of an anticipated revenue shortfall stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, a detour is in the works to launch some other paving projects with funding help from a timely awarded state grant. This year’s paving program lists plans for 32 projects to cover about 24 miles of county roads during the construction season. The projects are divided into two groups, and the county accepted bids from three companies seeking to win contracts for the work in those groups last month. Bid amounts for both groups added up to around $3.5 million. But the contracts have not been awarded yet. The county highway department put the paving program on hold since state tax revenues to fund the projects are expected to come in far less than planned. The county’s Motor Vehicle Highway and Local Road and Street funds serve as the sources of money to pay for road paving and maintenance. Revenue from Indiana’s gas tax primarily fuels those funds via monthly payments from the state. However, since COVID-19 hit Indiana in March, auto travel has declined and gas prices have plunged below $2 per gallon as people heeded travel restrictions and calls to isolate themselves at home. As a result, gas tax revenues in the state have likely dropped.