Businesses, individuals oppose committee's $1 toll proposal for commuters

Louisville, KY - By Elizabeth Donatelli - bio | email

JEFFERSONVILLE, IN ( WAVE) - Frequent drivers could soon be paying tolls of $1 to pay for the new bridges, with construction scheduled to start in less than two years. The Finance and Construction Planning Committee met Thursday to discuss recommendations to send to the board, but not everyone is happy about it.

The $1 tolls are target recommendations that could still change, as could the projected start-date of August 2012.

According to that timetable, the East End Bridge would be finished by 2017, the Downtown Bridge in 2020, and a reconfigured Spaghetti Junction two years after that. The whole project is slated to take 10 years.

Committee members discussed the need for speed, pointing out that every month the project is delayed adds $10 million to the final cost - and that starting construction earlier will save $10 million a month.

"You can have a plus or a minus in it, but to wait is not an answer to the problem," said Committee Chair Kerry Stemler.

Stemler estimates one-third of the $4 billion project will be paid for by tolls, saying daily commuters could expect to pay about $1 each time they cross the bridge.

"We will have to be part of the solution," said Stemler. "There is not other way. I have studied this and studied this."

Paul Fetter, who attended Thursday's meeting, says tolls will hurt his business.

"We figured it earlier at $70,000 a year," Fetter said estimating on tolls a bit higher.

Fetter, who owns Clark County Auto Auction on 10th Street in Jeffersonville, says his customers and suppliers cross the bridges hundreds of times a week.

"It will divide our region instead of increasing the vitality of our region," said Fetter.

Stemler proposed another committee to focus on tolls. It would set fees for locals, commercial, and those just passing through Louisville. The federal government, however, has yet to rule on which interstates can actually be tolled.

"You have to realize this is the federal government," said Stemler of the delay. "This is not a component of what we can control."

The committee was scheduled to present its recommendations to the full authority on Dec. 9, with a public input and information meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Muhammad Ali Center.

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