Credit agencies affirm ratings on Kentucky's Ohio River bridge b - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Credit agencies affirm ratings on Kentucky's Ohio River bridge bonds

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Two Wall Street credit rating agencies are sticking with their previous views on Kentucky’s debt for a new downtown bridge.  

Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings affirmed the ratings this month on $728 million in bonds the state sold in 2013 to help pay for the new Interstate 65 span and a redesigned interchange near downtown Louisville.

Moody’s kept its “Baa3” rating, while Fitch gave the debt a “BBB- rating.” Both are the lowest “investment grade” designations, according to the companies’ ratings scales.

The firms give the bonds a “stable” outlook.

In a report issued Wednesday, Fitch analysts continued to note that there “remains uncertainty” about how traffic in the Louisville area will respond to the introduction of tolls next year.

Drivers will be charged to use the new downtown bridge and the existing Kennedy Bridge, as well as an upriver span between Utica, Ind., and Prospect, Ky., as part of an all-electronic system that scans transponders and takes photos of license plates.

The Sherman Minton Bridge, which carries I-64 between Louisville and New Albany, Ind., and the Clark Memorial Bridge downtown won’t be tolled.

“While the I-64 bridge and the U.S. 31 Bridge offer free alternatives, these facilities are expected to have very high congestion levels during peak hours leading to higher time travel,” Fitch analysts wrote.

Exact tolls on the system, to be called RiverLink, haven’t been determined. Kentucky and Indiana officials continue to finalize a set of rules that includes details such as which drivers qualify for a frequent-user discount of $1 per crossing.

Fitch anticipates those rules to be ready by the end of the year.

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