SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT | Kentuckiana family prepares to cope with cost of bridge tolls
As WDRB's special series on bridge tolls continues, we're looking at how the cost to cross the river will impact a family on a budget.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Fifty years of talk will become reality in a matter of weeks with the completion of the Ohio River Bridges Project.
As WDRB's special series on bridge tolls continues, we're looking at how the cost to cross the river impacts a family on a budget.
Demond and Christa Thompson are consumed by the joy of a new baby. Their heads are filled with lists like baby food, wipes, clothes and shoes and as Demond Thompson jokes, "That magical butt cream."
"We'll be due somewhere between Nov. 16 and the 1st of December," Christa Thompson said.
But Baby Joel is not the only new cost the Jeffersonville couple is expecting. The other is far less welcome.
"I'll have to literally pay to go to work now," Demond said. "It's a little frustrating because of the nature of my job. If I don't work, I don't get paid. So now I have to make that much more."
Demond estimates that it will cost between $40 and $80 more a month to cross the river. The amount will depend on whether he meets the rigid requirement of a frequent driver discount from RiverLink.
"That's a huge chunk of budget," Christa Thompson said. "And that's something we will have to have, so it's like what do we have to back up on or give up."
The couple already has a daughter, 3 1/2-year-old Georgia. As Demond starts paying to go to work, Christa's income goes away because her part-time job as a nanny doesn't cover maternity leave.
"This isn't Chicago, so it's a little odd for me to think about paying tolls," Demond said. "That's for bigger cities."
"It's like saying, 'You know what, we're going to charge you for oxygen. You know, oxygen is getting tight right now. We're going to charge you for oxygen,'" Demond Thompson said, "That's what it feels like."
Demond's drive to work is about ten miles one way, and it forces the Thomspons to weigh options.
The family lives about two miles from the new East End Crossing. It will nearly cut his drive to work in half. It means no more backtracking through Jeffersonville or fighting through Spaghetti Junction. But if the licensed massage therapist takes this route, he will have to bring in three or four more clients a month to make up the toll difference.
"That's a pain," he said.
The Thompson family decided to put a transponder in only one of their cars, and if money runs tight, use the Second Street Bridge to avoid the tolls.
The same tough decisions are likely for hundreds of homes throughout Kentuckiana. It's why one lawmaker wants to offer Hoosiers a tax break.
State Senator Ron Grooms said, "I have asked that two bills be drafted that would provide an income tax deduction or credit for those that use the bridges that will be tolled," said State Senator Ron Grooms, a Republican who represents Jeffersonville and southern Indiana.
The fear is paying to cross the river forces families on budget to question simple things. Can they afford to run an errand? Can they afford to meet a friend?
"I'm going with a purpose. Like, if I'm going, and I'm paying to go, I'm going to do everything I need to do in the area in a day," Christa Thompson said.
Baby Joel arrived early. In fact, he arrived over the course of this story. With 10 fingers and 10 toes, he's a healthy five pounds.
Demond went back to work days after the delivery. Christa is scaling back her maternity leave to only one month, cutting short time time off work with her new addition to prepare for the additional expense.
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