Louisville bridge meetings draw anti-toll crowd

| 6/29/2011

Residents in the Louisville region say they don’t want existing bridges to be tolled to pay for two new bridges, and they don’t want the new bridges to be tolled, either. A pair of public meetings this week on a scaled-down version of the Ohio River Bridges project drew a combined 500 people. The majority of speakers were opposed to tolls.

Back in January, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer agreed to shave off about a quarter of the project’s $4 billion price tag in an effort to save money and forgo tolling the Sherman-Minton Bridge on Interstate 64 and Clark Memorial Bridge on U.S. 31.

Toll opponents hailed that as a small victory, but as the current plan stands, the existing John F. Kennedy Bridge on I-65 could still be converted to a tollway.

That possibility helped draw 250-300 people to meetings by the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority on Monday, June 27, in Clarksville, IN, and Tuesday in Louisville.

The cost reductions in the revised plan from the governors and mayor call for less work to the Spaghetti Junction interchange and for a reduction in the number of proposed lanes on the new bridges.

“The thing is, they kept the expensive parts of the project,” said Curt Morrison, a spokesman for a group called Say No to Bridge Tolls. The group submitted a 10,000-signature petition earlier this year that demanded the project be scaled down and tolls eliminated.

Morrison says people are in favor of building the eastern bypass bridge on I-265 but are mixed about the proposed downtown bridge. Some say the bridge authority should just build the bypass for now.

“It’s still a two-bridge project,” Morrison said. “The $3 billion is spread equally between downtown and the east end. But it’s going to require tolls – tolls on both bridges pretty much.”

Morrison said officials have referenced a $1 toll for cars in an effort to help sell the project to the public. Officials have not released much about truck tolls, but Morrison figures they’ll be “a lot more.”

OOIDA has issued a number of Calls to Action in the bistate region over the past year and a half in opposition to tolls on existing highway infrastructure. The Association’s position is that tolls are taxes, and tolls on a tax-funded highway amount to double taxation on the user.