LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When tolling starts on three Ohio River bridges, will it be cheaper to pay the tolls or detour to avoid them?

As part of our week-long series on bridge tolls, we did the driving and the math to get the answer.

With just weeks before construction is scheduled to end, paying tolls is at the top of many people's minds.

"I think it’s going to have a significant impact, because at certain times there's two or three times I'll have to cross the bridge in the course of a day," said Tom Corrao, who lives in Jeffersonville.

So what's really the best way to go? Drive out of your way to cross a toll-free bridge, or play it straight and pay the toll?

"I would go with the Second Street Bridge, more than likely," said Danita Holbrook, who lives in Jeffersonville.

While those answers may be different for every family, we did the work to save you time, miles and cash.

For our cost comparison, here are a few things you should know:

  • We drove each bridge in the middle of the day, not during the morning or evening rush
  • We're assuming we have a Frequent User Discount and Transponder that costs $1 per bridge crossing if you cross a bridge at least 40 times a month
  • To calculate the cost of operating your car, we're using a AAA figure, which estimates drivers spend 57 cents for every mile driven for gas and wear and tear on your car

The experts at Coyle Chevrolet, Buick and GMC explained to us what that includes. 

"Everything that depreciates on a car when the miles go up, the car becomes worth less," Chris Coyle said. "The engine obviously runs more. so the engine's lifetime decreases as the miles go. You've got brakes that wear, you've got tires that wear, all of those things ... There's going to be a cost associated."

Now with all that settled, we got driving.

I-65 via Kennedy and Lincoln Bridges

For each driving trial, we starting at the same location on 10th Street in Jeffersonville. Our end point is the WDRB Studios in downtown Louisville.

On our first trip, we got caught in what felt like a torrential downpour. When we pulled in front of WDRB, we had traveled 12.9 miles taking just over 21 minutes.

By our calculation, the trip cost $8.35 which adds up to $334.12 per month, including tolls. 

Second Street Bridge

There were no tolls are on our second trip, crossing the Second Street Bridge.

We traveled a shorter distance, just 12.2 miles, but it took us longer at just over 26 minutes. Our trip cost $6.95, which adds up to $278.16 per month.

That's cheaper than taking the Kennedy and Lincoln, but by our math, you'd be spending 3 hours and 11 minutes more in the car every month.

I-64 via Sherman Minton Bridge

On the third trial, we headed from Jeffersonville back to downtown Louisville, but this time we took the Sherman Minton, which is not a tolled route. 

There wasn't as much traffic this time, but there's no denying this is a longer trip. We traveled 17.9 miles, taking us almost 29 minutes.

And even though we won't pay a toll, this option is the most expensive, costing us $10.20 per trip. That's $408.12 per month.

You'd be spending 3 hours and 43 minutes more time in the car, compared to taking the Kennedy and Lincoln. 

So for this Jeffersonville to downtown comparison, we found the Second Street Bridge option to be the cheapest. But the Kennedy and Lincoln Bridges option by far saves you the most time.

Traveling to East Louisville

But what if you're not going downtown? What if you're headed to Louisville's east end?

This time we went from 10th Street in Jeffersonville to the east end in Louisville, and our goal is to hit no tolls.

Avoiding tolls, we took the Second Street Bridge into downtown Louisville, then up the Third Street Ramp to I-71 and I-265, ending at the Paddock Shops. 

It's a 24-mile trip, taking us 35 minutes. The cost was $13.68 per trip. 

The East End Bridge won't open until next month, so we can't clock the time for that trip.

But we did calculate the mileage to get to the Paddock Shops, bu taking the East End Bridge using a mapping tool.

By our estimation, you'd travel a little over 11 miles, spending $7.49 per trip, saving you more than $6, even with the toll.

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