Louisville chamber chair backs commercial truck ban on Clark Mem - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville chamber chair backs commercial truck ban on Clark Memorial Bridge

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The board chairman of Greater Louisville Inc. said he supports banning commercial vehicles on the Clark Memorial Bridge once new toll bridges open, calling it a wise move “from a safety perspective.”

Traffic will increase on the 85-year-old crossing – which will remain toll-free -- once the Ohio River Bridges Project is complete in 2016, according to projections. Also known as the Second Street Bridge, the Clark Memorial is considered “functionally obsolete” – meaning its design is out of date.

“To me that bridge is more like a city street,” Kerry Stemler said. “It was a two-lane bridge that was turned into a four-lane bridge.”

As drivers look to avoid tolls, traffic on the Clark Memorial is expected to climb from about 24,140 vehicles a day before construction began on the bridges project to more than 30,000 by 2023. That amounts to a 25 percent increase in cars and trucks.

Stemler said he didn't know how many serious crashes have occurred on the bridge, but he noted the June death of 24-year-old Ryann Tewell, who was hit and killed by a cement truck at the downtown Louisville base of the Clark Memorial while walking to her job at Humana.

In addition to safety concerns, Stemler said he'd like to keep road-pounding trucks off the Louisville area's oldest bridge.

“A (truck) carrying 20 tons or asphalt or crushed stone – we're taxing that an awful lot,” he said.

The Clark Memorial restrictions were among a series of “priority solutions” put forth by the head of the Clark and Floyd counties' chamber of commerce in a July 30 letter to Indiana's top finance official. Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of One Southern Indiana, wrote the letter to the Indiana Finance Authority in response to local businesses' concerns about the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Kendra York, the Finance Authority's director, has not responded to multiple requests for comment since Tuesday.

Besides his GLI position, Stemler sits on the boards of the Finance Authority and a six-person panel in charge of the bridges project's toll policy. In an interview, he said he plans to use his influence to push for several other ideas included in Dant Chesser's letter.

Specifically, Stemler said he also favors reclassifying certain heavy vehicles to avoid the toll rates charged to tractor trailers and exempting Transit Authority of River City buses from tolls.

But he opposes a special “frequent” toll rate for commercial vehicles and believes One Southern Indiana's suggestion that the Clark Memorial become one-way during rush hour periods is “not practical.”

Kentucky and Indiana plan to place tolls on the downtown Interstate 65 corridor – the existing Kennedy Bridge and a new span next to it – and an eastern bridge between Utica, Ind., and Prospect, Ky. The states have set preliminary toll rates ranging from $1 for passenger cars using the bridges frequently to $12 for tractor trailers without toll accounts.

Dant Chesser told WDRB on Tuesday that several trucking companies, concerned about steep toll costs from daily river crossings, are considering splitting up their fleets or relocating to Kentucky.

Stemler said those concerns are valid.

“The last thing we want to do is force businesses to move,” Stemler said. “That's not healthy for us.”

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