New details on proposed bridge tolls

Louisville, KY - By Matt McCutcheon - e-mail | bio

JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) - Bring up the word bridges in Kentuckiana and you'll get an earful. That was the case in the Hoosier state Wednesday as Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels held a question and answer association with southern Indiana business leaders.

Three parties make up the Ohio River Bridge Project: Indiana, Kentucky, and the federal government.

On Aug. 25, we found out from Gov. Daniels and appointed bridge overseers that tolls pretty much appear to be a done deal.

"Tolls, in my opinion I believe will ultimately have to be some component of this," said Kerry Stemler, Co-Chair of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridge Authority.

"If we try to do this through the gas tax people might end up paying more," said Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. "It may be a little less visible to them but there isn't going to be a free bridge. My stance is it's the only way to do it. People can have different views but my own view is it's a very fair thing to do. Out-of-state motorists will pay a very high percentage of the cost this way, compared to all of it being charged to Hoosiers and Kentuckians," Governor Daniels said.

That's what's new:  those who use the bridge more, may pay less - not the $3 that everyone has been assuming.

"It is unfortunate that a lot of our citizens believe that it is the conclusion," Stemler said. "That could not be farther from the truth. It is not a conclusion that it's a $3 toll. Remember that the time of day and the way we could do this - it has to be reasonable and affordable for all our citizens on both sides of the river."

If tolls are used, the time of day you travel the bridge could determine your price, as could your zip-code - leaving higher prices to people not from the area.

But everyone agrees that ground needs to be broken soon to take advantage of cheaper construction costs.

"If this thing gets bogged down a long time, that's only going to push the cost up," Daniels said.

While you may not see work being done below, it's very much a live project, officials say, as design and right-of-way work continues.

We should know more concrete details about the funding and tolls by the end of the year; that's when a more finalized budget must be submitted to the federal government.

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