By David Tanner
A bridge authority in Louisville, KY, has requested authority from the federal government to convert three existing bridges into tollways. Opposition to the proposal continues to swell.
The Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridge Authority has proposed tolling the Sherman Minton Bridge, the Clark Memorial Bridge and the John F. Kennedy Bridge. The tolls would fund a multibillion-dollar construction proposal known as the Ohio River Bridges Project. The proposal is to include two new bridges as well as the redevelopment of the busy Spaghetti Junction interchange consisting of Interstate 64, I-65 and I-71.
The authority meets on the first Thursday of each month to discuss the project. Officials are hoping to have a financial plan ready in December to present to the state governments.
Louisville resident Shawn Reilly, founder of a group called “Say No to Bridge Tolls,” says he and others who are opposed to the idea of tolls will be in attendance.
“Our opposition is with tolls on the existing infrastructure on three existing bridges,” Reilly told Land Line Magazine.
“For truckers, if you’re looking at going from Indianapolis to Nashville, you go through Louisville. … The new bridges would have tolls on them as well, so there would be no choice for anyone crossing the river.”
In late May, the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridge Authority submitted an “expression of interest” to the Federal Highway Administration to seek tolls on the new bridges as well as the three existing facilities.
The FHWA currently has six pilot programs under existing law that allow for interstate tolling as a matter of rehabilitation or congestion relief.
To date, no existing interstate has been successfully converted into a toll road. The most recent state to try was Pennsylvania with a proposal for I-80. FHWA officials rejected that proposal because state officials could not guarantee that 100 percent of the toll revenue would remain with I-80.
OOIDA and other highway user groups remain opposed to the conversion of tax-funded highway infrastructure into tollways. LL