S. Indiana chamber asks state to help ease toll burden on busine - WDRB 41 Louisville News

S. Indiana chamber asks state to help ease toll burden on businesses

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Southern Indiana chamber of commerce is asking state officials to consider changes to traffic and toll plans in an effort to ease the Ohio River Bridges Project's financial burden on local businesses.

The president and CEO of One Southern Indiana, which represents Clark and Floyd counties, sent the suggestions in a July 30 letter to the Indiana Finance Authority, the agency in charge of the project's financing.

Among the recommendations, based on input from chamber members, are limiting the Clark Memorial Bridge to passenger cars and trucks and restricting the span to one-way traffic during rush hour periods, Wendy Dant Chesser wrote.


Other “priority solutions” included in the letter are reclassifying trucks with four axles or fewer so that they don't pay the same toll rates as large tractor trailers – which can reach $12 per trip; exempting TARC and school buses from tolls; waiting until both bridges are built to start tolling; and studying a tax credit for companies that can “document the negative impact” of tolls.

In an interview, Dant Chesser cited dump trucks as vehicles that may have multiple axles but won't always be carrying full loads and should be exempt from higher tolls.

“Sometimes those dump trucks are going to be empty and the wear and tear on the bridge isn't going to be as great,” she said.

Construction is underway on the $2.3 billion project – a new downtown bridge, a reconfigured Spaghetti Junction interchange and a span linking Utica, Ind., and Prospect, Ky. The new bridges and the existing Kennedy Bridge will be tolled.

Last September, a panel of Kentucky and Indiana officials set initial toll rates that included $1 tolls for “frequent” passenger cars and $10 for heavy trucks with a EZ-Pass transponder. The tolls will be collected from users' prepaid EZ-Pass accounts or mailed based on a photo of each vehicle's license plate.

Dant Chesser noted in the letter that some local cargo haulers, in anticipating tolls, are weighing ideas such as separating their fleets on both sides of the Ohio River. If some companies relocate, the “reduction in the number of Indiana taxpayers will also adversely affect the revenues for our counties and other local units of government,” she wrote.

Dant Chesser said trucking companies and other firms that make frequent trips across the river have begun factoring the toll rates released last year into their business forecasts. She said she knows of several companies that are “exploring options,” but she declined to name them.

Some chamber members are concerned about additional traffic on the Clark Memorial Bridge, also known as the Second Street Bridge, she said. That span and the Interstate 64 Sherman Minton Bridge between Louisville and New Albany, Ind., will remain toll-free.

As a result, the chamber wants Indiana to consider barring some trucks from the bridge.

“Putting more passenger vehicles and more commercial vehicles on the Second Street Bridge probably would add to some of the safety concerns about that bridge,” such as narrow lanes, Dant Chesser said.

She compared the Clark Memorial carrying one-directional traffic – such as southbound during the mornings and northbound in the evenings – to the adjustments on Bardstown Road in Louisville during various times of day.

The letter requests a meeting with Indiana Finance Director Kendra York. Dan Chesser said she has exchanged voicemails with York but hasn't yet set up a meeting.

York was preparing a response to the letter Tuesday afternoon, according to her office.

Kerry Stemler, a Sellersburg, Ind., businessman who chairs Greater Louisville Inc., did not return a message left on his cell phone. Stemler also serves on a bi-state board in charge of tolling decisions.

One Southern Indiana has 1,018 business members, according to the letter. Dant Chesser said about 20 percent of the group's members are from Kentucky.

“The number of companies that are expressing concerns have increased,” she said.

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