Two top Republican lawmakers are considering an independent investigation into how the state bought $71 million in asphalt that is possibly defective and may be causing newly paved roads to crumble.
Valparaiso Rep. Ed Soliday told The Indianapolis Star that an outside investigation may be the only way to get answers other than taking the matter to court.
“There are only two paths out: You can get an independent third party to take a look at it and say here’s the right thing to do, or you let a judge decide it. I’m not real fond of that one,” said Soliday, the Republican chairman of the House Roads and Transportation Committee.
INDOT has investigated 188 roads that might have been paved with asphalt that crumbles and cracks years earlier than it should. Although no definitive conclusion has been reached, INDOT officials say the blacktop might have been mixed with too little binder, a sticky petroleum goo that keeps the rocks in asphalt together.
State contractors and the Indiana Department of Transportation have blamed each other for the road failures. Because INDOT plays a central role in that dispute, any investigation should be independent of the agency, said State Sen. Carlin Yoder, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee.
“This could be costing the state a lot of money for years to come, and we need to find out who is accountable,” said Yoder, a Middlebury Republican.
Some local highway departments have been warned that the life spans of their recently paved roads could be 30 percent shorter than usual and INDOT said it would demand refunds from contractors that didn’t use enough binder.
But Soliday said he isn’t convinced it’s the contractors fault since projects across the state are plagued by the same problem.
“That sounds like a heck of a lot of people that set out to do wrong,” Soliday said. “Something is missing from the picture.”
Republican Gov. Mike Pence indicated in a statement Monday that he did not share the same concerns over INDOT investigating the road failures.
“The safety of our roads in Indiana is top priority,” he said. “Therefore, I have asked for the commissioner of INDOT to get to the bottom of this issue and brief me directly on the results.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg wasted little time in blaming Pence and called for a probe of the administration.
“Governor Pence’s administration failed to stop this waste – and we deserve to know how and why,” Gregg said in an email appeal to voters, which included an online petition for an investigation. “It’s time for an independent investigation into how $71 million in taxpayer money was wasted on Gov. Pence’s watch.”
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