Decision on bridge tolls postponed - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Decision on bridge tolls postponed

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB)  -- Drivers waiting to see how much it will cost to cross two Ohio River bridges being built between Kentucky and Indiana will have to wait a little longer.

A bi-state group met Thursday morning in Jeffersonville to discuss tolling for the Ohio River Bridges Project.  Its agenda had included a resolution to set toll rates. But late Wednesday night, the group decided more groundwork was needed before a decision could be made. 

How much tolls will be is one big unanswered question regarding the $2.6 billion project. The work includes a new bridge linking Louisville and Jeffersonville, an East End span connecting Utica and Prospect, and the refurbishing of the Kennedy Bridge.

Suggested tolls would have frequent commuters paying $1 each way. Less frequent commuters would pay a $2 toll. Those who opt for a transponder in their cars can prepay the toll. Trucks and larger vehicles would pay more.

Secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Mike Hancock, said although rates were not set at the tolling board meeting Thursday, he wanted to make sure they are set as soon as possible.

Hancock said, the sooner the rates are set, the better for the driver and the taxpayer. That's because, he said, financial investors need to see rates when the state sells bonds for the project.

With interest rates constantly rising, Hancock worries bond values will decrease. He says if Kentucky can't capitalize on lower interest rates when selling the bonds that will pay for the project, the extra cost will likely be passed along to drivers in the form of higher tolls. "When you are looking at a multi-year loan, a big loan, then you're looking at even the tiniest interest rate increase creating some additional cost that you have to cover," said Hancock.

So for him, when it comes to setting toll rates, urgency has set in--but panic is out of the question. He expressed confidence that the tolling body will set another meeting very soon. He expects the rate to be set in the coming weeks.

Kentucky is handling construction of the downtown bridge and will use toll revenue to pay back debt and interest. Indiana is in charge of work on the East End bridge. It has secured financing but will still use tolls.

The project is one of the country's largest public works endeavors. Both bridges are scheduled to open in 2016.

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