Tolling System-1 (copy)

Commuters pass below the tolling cameras while traveling on I-65 before the crossing the Kennedy and Abe Lincoln Bridges.

SOUTHERN INDIANA — The joint board for the Ohio River Bridges Project has unanimously approved a change order aimed at improving customer service for tolling services, with penalties imposed for noncompliance.

A resolution allowing the change order was approved 4-0 Monday during a short Zoom meeting of the board, which consists of representatives from Indiana and Kentucky. It includes a lump sum of $2.9 million to be paid to toll service provider Kapsch TrafficCom by the board for modifications in the contract.

According to the resolution, customers calling RiverLink, which is operated by Kapsch TrafficCom, should not wait longer than 10 minutes for assistance, with a minimum of 80% of calls being answered by a live representative within 60 seconds. Additionally, it stipulates that no more than 4% of calls be abandoned after 60 seconds.

There will be daily reporting on call wait times, with semi-monthly reporting on percentages of calls answered within one minute. If these conditions are not met, Kapsch will pay the joint board $100 every time a call wait time is over 10 minutes, $500 for every percent or portion of a percent below 80% if these calls are not answered within one minute.

Kapsch must pay the board $300 for every percent above 4% if more calls than this are abandoned after 60 seconds by the customer.

“That was something that was very important to Indiana and me personally,” said Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuiness during the meeting. “I know in the past we’ve had issues with wait times on calls for the customers, sometimes getting extremely out of whack.

“Thanks to all that played a significant role in all this. It was a long time and a heavy lift by many.”

The change order also allows for additional customer service staff and representatives, and modifies how out-of-state lookups for billing will be paid for. With the resolution, the board will pay for any staffing above 20, and additional supervisors for every 15 extra representatives above 20.

The board will also pay 80% of the out-of-state lookup — such as when a person drives through from a state other than Indiana or Kentucky and must be located and billed for the toll crossing.

“The joint board and [Kapsch TrafficCom] believe the customer service requirements and the additional staffing, as needed, will result in more consistency in meeting customer service needs,” a news release said. “Successful out-of-state lookups to locate addresses for the purposes of sending invoices help to ensure all drivers enjoying the benefits of the bridges are paying their fair share.”

The total $2.9 million paid to Kapsch by the board includes $1.3 million for the additional customer service representatives and supervisors from February to November 2019, with $1.6 million to pay for the out-of-state lookups from January 2019 through September 2020, according to the release.

Bridge crossings have also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, in part due to stay-at-home orders in Indiana and Kentucky, temporary closures of certain businesses and the increase in people working from home. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet numbers show that from Aug. 16 through Oct. 17, there were nearly one million fewer bridge crossings compared to the same period in 2019 — 975,140 total.

This averages out to just over 108,000 fewer crossings during this time period in 2020. However, a representative with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet office of public affairs said that hasn’t affected the state’s ability to make payments.

“The reduction in traffic seen with the pandemic has understandably affected toll revenue — a scenario seen by toll systems across the country,” the representative stated in an email. “However, the reduction in toll revenue has not affected Kentucky’s ability to make debt payments or cover the project area’s operations and maintenance costs.”

The amount of revenue loss from the decrease in bridge crossings was not available.

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