Topic of bridge project still taking a toll

By Matt McCutcheon - e-mail | bio

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Another meeting, another chapter in the controversial bridges project in Kentuckiana.

There's the project itself, then there's how to pay for it - which may include tolls - then there's the fight for the jobs it could create.  When you put all of that together, the thoughts out there are about as divided as this road, and at this point project leaders still have several different avenues they could go down.

"This process started 41 years ago.  we've had hundreds, if not thousands of meetings," said Kerry Stemler with the bridge task force.

So at this point, what's another meeting?  Thursday's meeting included plenty of talk about that dreaded T word - tolls.

"How tolls are being used in other parts of the country and other projects, how high-speed electronic tolls fit in," Stemler said.

Officials say it's still too early to throw out a dollar amount you could pay for each trip across the bridge -- let alone the likelihood of tolls being a part of the funding equation.

They expect to shore up their financing plan by December.

"We have to look at everything we have, remembering that what we're building with the two bridges and the reconfiguration of spaghetti junction is a comprehensive traffic solution," Stemler said.

The list of people and groups publicly expressing an opinion about the project is growing -- just like the traffic on the existing bridges.

Before Thursday's meeting, the founder of a Louisville trucking company passionately pushed for the east end bridge to be built to ease congestion saying each day without it is costing him money.

"The average truck probably gets about 6.5 miles to the gallon and its very important that we're moving freight, not sitting still in traffic," said Allan Parnell of Mr. P Express Trucking.

And like so many others, toll talking is a taxing topic.

"I'm generally opposed to the tolls, however, if that's what it takes to build a bridge, then put the tolls on there and get on with it," Parnell said.

"People want to talk about the negative side, but no one wants to seem to talk about the positive impact," said Larry Hojo of the Indiana-Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters.

They also feels the positives outweigh the negatives in this case for its workers, despite the possibility of a toll.

"In construction, unemployment's running about 21%.  Whenever the economy goes down, the first thing to give is the capitol investments and we depend on those buildings to provide for our families," Hojo said.

Another issue to be worked out is when construction would start on the bridges.  That's expected to be addressed in yet more meetings.

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