LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Some Hoosiers could get a break on RiverLink tolls if the Sherman Minton Bridge closes for more than six months for renovations, according to a bill filed in the Indiana legislature.
The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Ron Grooms, would let residents of Floyd and Harrison counties recoup half of the amount they pay to cross the Ohio River’s toll bridges while the toll-free Sherman Minton is shut down.
Residents from those counties would lose their fastest route to Kentucky if the Sherman Minton, which connects New Albany with Louisville, is closed during a planned $92 million project scheduled to start in early 2021.
Presumably, those drivers would take the I-65 toll bridges to cross the river instead.
Grooms said some of his constituents are concerned about possibly being forced to take a toll bridge if the Minton is taken out of service for an extended period. Under his bill, Floyd and Harrison residents would apply for the rebates to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
“It takes a little bit of the sting out,” Grooms, a Jeffersonville Republican, said in an interview. “And for some people this could as much as $50 per month for six months.”
Grooms said he didn't add Clark County residents to the bill because he believes most of those drivers use the tolled bridges.
Through a four-person bi-state board, Indiana and Kentucky oversee the RiverLink toll network on the I-65 Kennedy and Lincoln Bridges and the upriver Lewis and Clark Bridge. WDRB News requested a comment on Grooms’ bill from the board on Tuesday.
The Sherman Minton is the most heavily traveled Ohio River crossing in Louisville, carrying an estimated 90,000 vehicles per day. Grooms said he’s assuming that about 15 percent of those crossings are Floyd and Harrison residents.
“The state is not collecting money from them now, because they don’t use the toll bridges,” he said. “And if they use the toll bridges, it’s a little extra revenue that the state didn’t have in the past.”
Plans call for crews to replace the Sherman Minton’s decks, or roadways, along with resurfacing approach roads in Indiana and completely replacing the Kentucky approach. Other work includes painting the span’s structural steel, making drainage repairs and adding new lights.
Indiana and Kentucky are managing the project, with Indiana paying 55 percent of the cost because of extra overpass and other work that was added in Floyd County.
Officials haven’t yet decided whether the Sherman Minton will be closed during the construction, or whether some lanes can remain open. If passed, Grooms’ bill only would apply if “all traffic lanes” of the Sherman Minton are closed for at least six months.
Grooms filed Senate Bill 495 earlier this month. It has been assigned to the Senate’s tax and fiscal policy committee.
As he has in past legislative sessions, Grooms also has introduced measures that would give Indiana businesses in Clark and Floyd counties a tax credit of up to $1,000 for toll expenses, and let Clark County residents claim a tax deduction of up to $500 based on toll expenses.