Kennedy and Lincoln Bridges

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Aiming to improve RiverLink billing and customer service, Indiana and Kentucky officials have chosen a Texas-based company to take over the Louisville area toll system's collection, invoicing and other back office work.

The Indiana Finance Authority, which is overseeing the procurement for both states, made the preliminary selection of Electronic Transaction Consultants LLC at its Thursday board meeting in Indianapolis. State officials will begin negotiations with the firm, hoping to approve a final contract in June.

The estimated total contract price is just over $79 million during a seven-year toll collection period that is expected to start by late 2023. The two states split costs related to RiverLink.

Electronic Transaction Consultants, known as ETC, also would establish a local call center to handle drivers' questions about toll bills. That's in contrast to the current system that started in Austin, Texas in late 2016 but now includes a sizeable workforce in central Indiana.

"There was a requirement that the call center -- the heart of the customer service operation -- be near the bridges," said Joe Guerre, associate vice president of HNTB Corp., the states' toll adviser.

Founded in 1999, ETC is headquartered in Richardson, Texas in suburban Dallas. It says it works for three of the top 15 toll agencies in the U.S. and processes more than 2 billion toll transactions every year "at the most technically advanced toll authorities in the industry."

The company did not immediately respond to questions Thursday afternoon about its operations or where a Louisville area call center could be located.

The toll bridges' back office work is now done by Municipal Services Bureau, an Austin, Texas subcontractor of toll system operator Kapsch TrafficCom. But it has come under scrutiny since tolling began more than four years ago for long wait times and inaccurate bills.

Kapsch handles the "roadside" part of RiverLink -- the toll gantries and technology that capture license plate images and scan transponders on the high-speed, all-electronic system that includes the Interstate 65 Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy Memorial bridges, and the upriver Lewis and Clark Bridge between Prospect, Ky., and Utica, Ind.

ETC was among nine companies that submitted bids for the work, and one of two finalists. Evaluation committees that included Kentucky, Indiana and HNTB representatives chose ETC over Cofiroute USA LLC of Irvine, Calif., based on a score that emphasized technical and price proposals.

The process also included a two-week "proof of concept" period for ETC and Cofiroute, requiring the two companies to take data from the toll system and handle it as though it were actual license plate photos and transponder data.

"We wanted to see it do what they said it could do," Guerre said. "We wanted to see their team, the project team, in action, communicate in real time, ask questions, and watch them go through the problem-solving process."

If negotiations with ETC are successful, the Indiana Finance Authority and the Kentucky-Indiana Joint Board, the bistate decision-making panel, would have to approve a final contract.

This story may be updated.

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