Tolls are part of updated Ohio River bridges plan

By Jon Chrisos - bio | email

JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) - Get ready to pay up to cross over. Tolls are part of the plan to pay for the Ohio River bridges. That was the latest on the toll controversy Thursday from the Bridges Authority Finance Committee.

It's now not a question of if  but how much. Kerry Stemler, the committee chairman, says there's no way to detour around tolls.

Stemler says the update to their financial plan will include tolling to bridge the gap between state and federal money and the cost of the project.

"We will look at every way to bring the tolls to the minimum amount they can be for the local commuter," Stemler said. "We have always looked at this as a way to take care of the local community."

The project calls for two new bridges: one in the east end, one downtown at a cost of $4 billion. The committee is looking at ways to drive down the cost of the project, and in turn, lower tolls, which could range from $.50 to $3.

One money-saving option calls for speeding up the timetable. Experts estimate $10 million a month could be saved by moving up the construction schedule.

"Obviously, we are going to look at ways to move quicker, not slower," Stemler said. "The project is long overdue."

The group "Say No to Bridge Tolls" promises to keep fighting. "We're against tolls on all bridges anyway. But tolls on existing bridges don't make any sense. Those bridges are already paid for, but they've asked for permission to toll all bridges," Curtis Morrison said.

The group wants to see the bridges built in affordable phases, without tolls. For now it doesn't look like the project is headed in that direction. "Our charge is to build the entire project and to build it as quickly and as at little cost as possible," Stemler said.

By Kentucky law, an update to the initial financial plan must be submitted by the end of the year. That's when we should know how much these tolls will add up to, but keep in mind, the financial planning will continue well into next year. The Bridges Authority wants to see construction in 2012.

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