The Abraham Lincoln Bridge

The Abraham Lincoln Bridge

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The RiverLink bridges are expected to bring in $373.4 million less for Kentucky and Indiana over the next three decades, according to a WDRB News analysis of new tolling data.

That would amount to a nearly 6 percent decline in toll income for the states when compared with projections made in 2016.

The new estimates, presented Friday to the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority, weigh long-term effects from COVID-19 such as permanent driving changes due to at-home work, said David Miller, head of PFM Group's national transportation finance practice.

“While traffic has been impacted so much nationally, we don't feel like there's going to be any really big long term, detrimental impact -- down a little bit more in fiscal year ’21 and ’22, but then kind of settling in just a little bit below the original 2013 projections,” he told authority members.

PFM prepared the new estimates ahead of Kentucky’s planned debt refinancing on the Ohio River Bridges Project. The authority is the state agency in charge of funding construction of the new Lincoln Bridge and renovations to the Kennedy Bridge and Spaghetti Junction interchange.

At the same time, other projections show the cost to operate Kentucky’s part of the project may be “significantly higher,” Miller said. Also higher are projected maintenance costs for roads and bridges in the downtown area.

The anticipated change in toll revenue depends on what set of pre-coronavirus projections are used: Those done in 2013, or an updated set from 2016.  

Miller based his presentation on the 2013 estimates; the calculations done three years later boosted the amount of revenue the states expected by about $200 million over a 30 year period ending in 2050.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet wasn’t able to immediately say Friday afternoon why Miller used the 2013 estimates.

But even with the change in anticipated revenues, Miller said Kentucky officials should have enough money to cover the amount owed once the existing construction debt is refinanced. The state is looking at more affordable rates on a federal loan and other bonds, possibly saving around $60 million, according to Miller’s figures.

The transportation authority plans to pursue the refinancing in the coming months.

Kentucky and Indiana divide toll revenues, using their shares for different purposes. Kentucky's share goes toward paying off its construction debt and funding accounts set aside for maintenance, repairs and other needs on the downtown portion.

This story may be updated.

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