LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - After well more than a year of leaving Jeffersonville before 7 a.m. each morning to guarantee she would get to work across the Ohio River by 8, Stefanie Hodgkins wasn't expecting the breeze she found on Monday.
"Twenty minutes!" she told WAVE 3 News. "It was beautiful."
The reopened Kennedy Bridge gave her three through-lanes of I-65 southbound, including the designated off-ramp at Jefferson Street in downtown Louisville.
"It was flowing well," she said. "Nobody quite knew what lane they should be in, so we all looked like out-of-towners."
Polite visitors at that, especially now that the off-ramps to I-64 east and I-71 north have re-opened. Drivers no longer have to exit to pick up those routes to Lexington and Cincinnati via I-65 Northbound.
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But those thrills portend bills before Christmas.
"We're still installing that (tolling) system and testing it," said Mindy Peterson, spokeswoman for the downtown portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project.
"Do I like the extra toll?" Hodgkins asked rhetorically. "No. But is it worth the relieved, alleviated traffic? Yes, absolutely!"
On Monday, she joined more than 10,000 Kentuckians and Hoosiers who've put in their orders for transponders through the tolling authority, RiverLink. The first local transponder is free but a $20 deposit is required to set up an account.
Jeffersonville resident Maria McCormick has held off. "It doesn't seem clear," she said. "And I'm not sure if everyone's gonna do it, how they're gonna do it, and I really don't want to go to a class."
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A number of employers are wrestling with how to cope when the tolls begin, likely in early December.
"The scanners and cameras will record only the number of crossings, not whether you're crossing on company time or your own time," Peterson said. "We're suggesting that companies consider direct reimbursement, like meal receipts, or a stipend to cover the commuting costs.
Bridge cameras and scanners will debit your account, or charge the toll, by recording an image of our license plate, and/or capturing the transponder frequency. A passenger car with a registered license plate and transponder will pay $2 per crossing, half the toll for a vehicle with no transponder and an unregistered tag.
The price difference is less for light trucks, vans, buses, campers and boat trailers ($5 with, $7 without) or heavy trucks ($10, $12).