But according to the study, “the adverse impact of tolling can be seen as the ‘price paid’ for the positive impacts of the project.”
When asked if he thought Hoosiers would be willing to pay a $560 million funding gap on Kentucky’s portion of the project, Fetter said they already are. He said Indiana residents will pay for a bulk of the project through tolls, citing a four-to-one usage rate of the bridges by Indiana residents.
“It’s got the potential to save billions in economic impact for $560 million,” he added.
However, to-date, there has been no word from the state on the proposal offered.
Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, was among several local representatives that recently met with Fetter and said the plan has not been ruled out, but it is one that will not be addressed during this two-year budget cycle.
“It is a concept I consider worthy of thought,” he said. “It’s certainly an option.”
With the opening of the bridges project not set until 2016, Grooms said it will not be something addressed in preparing the state’s budget.
Another issue for the Indiana Department of Transportation is covering other transportation costs. According to a report from the Evansville Courier and Press, the sales tax collected on gasoline in Indiana is worth more than $500 million per year, but the state spends about $14.5 billion annually on projects.
Grooms said the revenues for INDOT have continually dropped and localities are clamoring for that money to complete basic paving projects. He added that the rate for the gas tax has remained the same for the last eight years, while project costs have continued to increase.
However, Fetter said any means of avoiding tolls on area bridges must be explored.
“Until they actually open the bridge, anything we can do to mitigate the rate, we have to try,” he said.