JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) – Kentucky and Indiana plan to start charging drivers to cross three Louisville-area bridges at 4 a.m. on Friday, December 30, officials said Tuesday.

The announcement comes as work nears completion on the $2.3 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, with a Sunday opening scheduled for the eastern span connecting Kentucky’s Gene Snyder Freeway and the Lee Hamilton Highway in Indiana.

Motorists will then have about 10 days to cross the river without paying before tolls are assessed on the yet-to-be-named East End bridge and the Interstate 65 Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy bridges downtown.

Those crossings are part of the all-electronic RiverLink network, which has deployed cameras, lasers and other technology to record license plates or scan windshield-mounted transponders. Tolls range from $2 to $12 per trip.

With the start date now known, RiverLink spokeswoman Mindy Peterson urged people to sign up for accounts and begin attaching the transponders. Drivers with transponders pay the lowest toll rate -- $2 – and are eligible for a $1 toll if they make 40 crossings in a calendar month.

“If you have not yet opened your RiverLink account – whether you’re a person, an individual or a business – please do so as soon as possible,” Peterson said, speaking at a news conference outside RiverLink’s customer service center in Jeffersonville.   

More than 82,000 transponders that will work on the three spans have been distributed, and drivers have placed orders for more than 18,000 transponders that also can be used in the E-ZPass toll network in 16 states.  

In all, about 45,000 households and more than 1,500 businesses have opened accounts, according to the states. Officials previously have said they didn’t set goals for accounts prior to the start of tolls.

Peterson said people who have requested the E-ZPass transponders should get them by the end of next week. She attributed the delay to tests meant to ensure that RiverLink’s E-ZPass transponder can be read by other systems in the E-ZPass network.

“We don’t want to give you something that’s not currently functional,” she said.

In recent weeks, the RiverLink technology has gotten a test run that includes cars passing through the tolling zones, computer systems reading transaction data and hypothetical payments being processed, said Clint Murphy, tolling director for the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“The successful completion of these tests confirms the system is ready for operation,” he said.


The owners of vehicles that don’t have RiverLink accounts will receive an invoice by mail and are responsible for the charges even if someone else crossed the toll bridges. In Kentucky and Indiana, a car’s annual registration can be denied if outstanding toll bills aren’t paid.

One option for getting out-of-state drivers to pay tolls is to use a debt-collection agency, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

For more than two years, Kentucky and Indiana officials also have said they’re interested in agreements with other states that hold drivers accountable if they fail to pay tolls. One model is a compact among several New England states.

Murphy said there’s “not a fixed timeline” for signing any agreements between Kentucky, Indiana and other states. He noted that a federal initiative has called for “interoperability” among states with toll roads, but that effort has failed to meet its deadlines.

“If someone from out of state comes through we can send them a bill,” he said. “We can send them a violation notice and we can actually send them an enforcement action that can be used as enhanced enforcement,” he said.

Murphy acknowledged concerns about collecting tolls from out-of-state drivers, but said, “I think we have protections in place to handle that.”

Estimates call for 110,000 vehicles to use the three toll bridges each day – roughly 74,500 on the Lincoln and Kennedy and 36,000 on the eastern span. By comparison, nearly 122,000 cars and trucks drove across the Kennedy in 2012, when it was the only I-65 bridge.

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