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March 19, 2013

Consultants: $1 tolls likely for frequent users on downtown, east-end bridges

Final tolls not set; process would be electronic

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Frequent commuters can expect $1 tolls each way on three area bridges based on a study prepared by a consulting company preparing a traffic and revenue study for the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Frequent users will pay via a transponder, and other fees are projected at: $2 for “nonfrequent” two-axle vehicles; $5 per “medium” truck; and $10 per “heavy” truck, according to a press release from the bridges project.

Those rates match earlier projections offered by the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority when it announced a funding gap would need to be made up to complete the project.

The assumed rates were outlined in a briefing today to the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority, which will be selling toll revenue bonds to help finance Kentucky’s portion of the project. Kentucky’s portion of the project includes construction of a new northbound Interstate 65 bridge and a reconstruction of Spaghetti Junction. Indiana’s portion of the project includes construction of a new east-end bridge connecting Interstate 265 over the Ohio River from Prospect, Ky. to Utica.

Despite the expectation that the previously announced toll rates requested by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will be met, official rates have not been adopted.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Project Manager Gary Valentine previously said that when goal toll rates were set, a frequent toll user is defined in the financial plan as someone who makes 20 two-way trips per month, or 40 total trips, across the Ohio River.

The traffic and revenue study being conducted by international firm Steer, Davies, Gleave is not yet completed, according to the release. In addition, toll-rate setting will be the job of a Kentucky-Indiana Joint Tolling Board, which includes leaders of the two states’ transportation and finance agencies.

“It appears that we’re on track to meet our goal of fair and reasonable toll rates to help finance a major transportation improvement for the region,” said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock, who is also chairman of the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority board, in the release.

Both states have committed to use all-electronic tolling, in which users of the bridges can pay tolls via a vehicle-mounted electronic transponder that sends a signal to the tolling devices that debits the cost from an established account or a high-resolution video that captures images of a vehicle’s license plate and then send bills to the bridge users.

A final traffic and revenue study is expected in about a month, a necessary step in advance of bond sales this spring, according to the release.

Both crossings are being financed by a combination of tax dollars and toll revenues.

Kentucky is following a traditional model with portions of the costs built into the state’s transportation budget over 6 years, in addition to the sale of $236 million of GARVEE bonds, with the shortfall to be covered in tolling revenues. Indiana is following a public-private partnership model where the state will pay for the project through money dedicated through Indiana’s Department of Transportation at $54 million a year, for eight years, totaling $432 million with the remainder to be covered through tolls.  

Tolling on the two new bridges and the Kennedy Bridge is scheduled to begin when the east-end bridge opens in October 2016. The completion date for the downtown portion of the bridges has been set for December 2016.

Even if there is a delay in construction, tolling on the existing Kennedy Bridge will start no later than June 20, 2018.

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