FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky is joining the E-Z Pass network of toll roads, a move that will allow drivers on new toll bridges in Louisville to use their transponders on similar roads in other states.

The Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority approved the action at its meeting Wednesday in Frankfort. The agency oversees Kentucky’s part of the $2.3 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, which is set to open to traffic starting next year.

Joining E-Z Pass was expected. In early 2014, Kentucky and Indiana selected Kapsch TrafficCom to sell the states a local transponder, which can be placed inside a vehicle's windshield, and an E-Z Pass device that can also be used on that system of roads elsewhere.

In all, 15 states are E-Z Pass members, including West Virginia and Indiana’s northern toll road. By joining, any future toll roads in Kentucky would likely become part of E-Z Pass as well.

David Talley, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's innovative finance manager, said the move is aimed at lowering costs associated with tracking down drivers who don’t have pre-paid accounts.

There won’t be toll booths on a new eastern bridge, a new Interstate 65 span and the Kennedy Bridge next to it. Instead, cameras and antennae near the bridges will record license plates or scan transponders on vehicles' windshields. Drivers who don't have toll accounts – linked to the transponder or a license plate – will be billed by mail.

“For every vehicle that goes through with an E-Z Pass transponder, we already have the information about those folks,” Talley said.

“We don’t have to take a picture of their license plate. We don’t have to send an invoice to them. We don’t have to send a reminder. There’s a much higher percentage of collectability,” he said.

Collecting toll revenue is vital to the Louisville project meeting its projections. If those revenues fall short, drivers could see increased toll costs.

Traffic experts anticipate about half of the invoices mailed to drivers without toll accounts will be paid. The collection rate falls to 40 percent if a second bill is mailed, and 15 percent if outstanding bills are sent to a collections agency.

The states have set preliminary toll rates ranging from $1 for frequent drivers to $12 for heavy trucks such as tractor-trailers that don't use transponders. A final tolling policy with more details is expected by late summer or early fall, Talley said.

Indiana expects to join E-Z Pass for the Louisville-area project next year, said Clint Murphy, the Indiana Department of Transportation's tolling oversight director.

In Kentucky, officials said the state Transportation Cabinet would cover the $75,000 membership fee because no toll revenue is available.

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