LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – During the early months of new Ohio River bridge tolls, drivers routinely waited more than an hour to reach call center representatives with billing concerns. The delays caused project officials to promise better customer service, including hiring more people to answer phones.

Those efforts appear to be paying off – even if drivers still have to hold for more than 10 minutes before getting help.

There was “significant improvement” to the RiverLink system’s call center operations last month, according to an internal report showing an increase in the rate of calls answered and those picked up within a 30-second goal.

The report from system operator Kapsch TrafficCom was provided to WDRB News in response to questions about wait times and other call center issues. It attributes the better results to the addition of extra staff at call centers in Austin, Texas, Puerto Rico and Muncie, Ind., that are run by a subcontractor, Municipal Services Bureau.

In all, about 64 workers are now handling calls at those locations, said Mindy Peterson, a spokeswoman for RiverLink.

“That seems to be making a world of difference,” she said. “… All of those numbers are trending in the right direction. You can see us start to turn the corner in May.”

On average, the report says, drivers had to wait about 11 minutes and 15 seconds before a call center representative picked up during May. That was about 45 seconds faster than in April (about 12 minutes), and about half the time that it took in March (22 minutes).

Also last month, 22 percent of all calls were answered within 30 seconds, up from 3 percent in April. The goal is to have more than 65 percent of calls answered within the half-minute mark.

Peterson noted that those statistics improved even as the number of calls to RiverLink rose by more than 21,000 in May – the biggest one-month increase since tolls started in late December.

(The jump is likely the result of several factors, including the first batch of violation notices in late May and other invoices for spring break travel, she said.)

But the May data also shows that 41 percent of all calls were abandoned before drivers could reach a representative or leave a call back number.

Tolls on the Interstate 65 Kennedy and Lincoln bridges, and the upriver Lewis and Clark Bridge, are collected without drivers stopping at toll booths.

The lowest toll rates -- $2 per crossing in a passenger car -- are tied to pre-paid transponders that are read by scanners mounted above the bridges, while the highest rates are for vehicles without a RiverLInk account. In those cases, cameras identify vehicles based on their license plates, and the owner is billed by mail.

The call centers are one option for drivers to deal with RiverLink accounts. Besides going online, people in the Louisville area can stop by two walk-in centers in downtown Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind.

On Friday, Liz Carter stopped by the Louisville location to resolve an issue involving vehicles for Showtime Sign & Design that had been improperly charged.

“It was pretty smooth,” she said. “They were helpful. It was not a bad experience. It pays to come in in person.”

But for those who prefer to call, Peterson insisted that there has been a “dramatic improvement” from the long delays that marked the first months of RiverLink.

“It’s unfortunate because of those early perceptions that people are not reaching out now when it’s very easy on a daily basis to get through to a representative and get the help that you need,” she said.

Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825, mgreen@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2017 WDRB News. All rights reserved.