More debate about tolls on bridges
Jeffersonville, IN. (WDRB) -- Some southern Indiana business leaders are still working to oppose tolls on the I-65 portion of the Ohio River Bridges project. Business owners continue to worry that tolls when they come will keep some customers from coming to southern Indiana.
It is Easter week and candy sales are good at Schimpff's Confectionery in the heart of downtown Jeffersonville. "Southern Indiana has worked hard to have restaurants over here and entice people from Louisville to come over here," says Warren Schimpff, owner of the popular and well-known Schimpff's.
But while the short-term future looks bright for businesses like Schimpff's, there is concern that once the Ohio River Bridges Project is completed in three or four years, Louisville residents will think twice before paying a toll, even if it is as cheap as a dollar, and driving to Southern Indiana.
"All of us are going to be impacted by people having to pay a tax to come over here," says Schimpff, "the toll actually being another tax on them to cross the bridge and come over here and shop."
He estimates that half of his business comes from customers who live in Louisville.
So instead of tolls on what will be the two I-65 bridges -- the Kennedy and the soon to be built new bridge next to the Kennedy -- the Clark-Floyd Counties Tourism Bureau is among those leading a lobbying effort to get the state of Indiana to pay Kentucky's unfunded portion of the project.
Kentucky is responsible for building the downtown portion of the bridges project. The tourism board believes Indiana could raise the money from a bond issue.
"What we want is to prevent tolls on I-65," says the executive director of the bureau, Jim Keith. "It would be the only part of the interstate from Chicago to Mobile that has tolls."
Keith believes that if tolls are allowed on the Kennedy and the new bridge to be built beside it, the impact on investment will be felt for many years. "I think it will be 50 years along the I-65 corridor," says Keith, "where people will choose to make an investment somewhere else, because tolls create an obstacle for doing business, it just means an additional cost."
The convention bureau does not oppose tolls on the east end bridge, which the state of Indiana is in charge of building. But the proposal to keep tolls off the I-65 bridge appears to be a long shot.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence has said that the plan agreed to by his predecessor is the plan Indiana is proceeding with. And that plan is to toll the Kennedy and the new downtown bridge.
Toll rates have yet to be finalized.
That is expected to come this summer.
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