Kentucky agency set to vote Thursday on final piece of bridges f - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky agency to vote Thursday on final piece of bridges funding

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky agency in charge of securing money for a new downtown interstate bridge is scheduled to vote on the project's final piece of financing at a meeting Thursday in Frankfort.

Construction is underway on the full Ohio River Bridges Project – an upriver bridge being overseen by Indiana, and the downtown span and rebuilt Spaghetti Junction under Kentucky's control – but only Indiana has its funding in place. Kentucky still needs to raise approximately $750 million.

The Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority, a body largely appointed by the governor, plans to discuss and vote on a slate of financing documents at the meeting, including details about a bond issue that will be paid back by tolls on drivers crossing the two new bridges and the existing Kennedy Bridge.

The meeting is to begin at 10 a.m. on Nov. in Room C-106 of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's headquarters, 200 Mero Street in Frankfort. The meeting is open to the public and public comments will be accepted before – but not after – the financing is discussed, according to the meeting's agenda.

Also on the agenda is an update on the state's pursuit of a federal low-interest loan to aid the overall financing.

Indiana and Kentucky have set initial tolls between $1 and $12, with the proceeds to be evenly split. Kentucky's share of toll revenue would be used to pay debt on the loan, which the state previously estimated at about $450 million -- and about $300 million in additional bonds. 

A study estimating the bridges project's traffic and revenue from tolls over the coming decades raises questions about whether commercial trucks, which are expected to contribute 45 percent of all toll revenue, will divert in large numbers to the toll-free Clark Memorial and Sherman Minton bridges.

The estimates of increased traffic come as the number of vehicle miles traveled per person is declining In Kentucky and Indiana, according to a report released in August by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The study evaluated federal data and found, for example, that since peaking in 1999, the average Kentuckian drives 720 fewer miles per year.

Kentucky transportation officials have said the traffic study is conservative and meant to show there will be enough toll revenue even with significant diversion to toll-free routes.

The amount of miles driven nationally this year climbed to 1.99 trillion through August – the highest level since drivers logged more than 2 trillion miles through the same month of 2008, according to the most recent data from the Federal Highway Administration.

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