Clarksville gearing up for legal battle against proposed tolls - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Clarksville gearing up for legal battle against proposed tolls on downtown bridges

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CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- Clarksville, Indiana is already waging a battle against tolls on the new downtown bridge. The city has approved $10,000 for a possible legal fight.

Clarksville officials are concerned that the tolls will hurt business in their town, and point to a study by the Indiana Finance Authority which predicts a negative impact of $7.5 billion over 30 years.

S & S Motorsports is located right off I-65, and owner Chris McCarty says 60-percent of his business comes from Kentucky. But McCarty is concerned that proposed tolls on the new downtown bridge will cost him customers.

"They may come kick the tires two, three, four times before they buy. Every time they come over, there's going to be tolls incurred each way, and we're just afraid it's going to impact our business over here," said McCarty.

McCarty supports a possible lawsuit by the Clarksville Town Council. It has voted to spend $10,000 to start a legal fund.  "It's something we have to do for our businesses and our citizens to protect their economic interest," said Town Councilman Paul Fetter.

Fetter, who pushed the action, is also general manager of Clark Co. Auto Auction, which he says would be hurt by the toll.  "Sales could possibly fall off in the vicinity of 5 to 10 million dollars a year, based on past experience," said Fetter.

"We have three times the density of retail as any other area in the metropolitan area. That means a profound impact on Clarksville," said Town Council President John Gilkey.

But Kerry Stemler, the former chairman of the Ohio River Bridges Authority, does not believe tolls would severely impact Indiana business. He says there will still be options for crossing the river without paying a toll.

"The existing Second Street Bridge or the Sherman Minton Bridge, those are non-tolled options. Recognizing that in 2013, we're bringing another bridge online, which is the Big Four pedway bridge, where we can ride a bike or walk across very safely," said Stemler.

But that's little comfort to those for whom the downtown bridge is a lifeline.  "We're in favor of the bridges, just the tolling and what it's going to bring to the Clarksville-Jeffersonville corridor is what we're afraid of," said McCarty.

The Town Council hopes to raise $50,000 for the legal fund. There's been no final decision yet about whether to file suit.

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