Vote soon on toll financing for Louisville bridge plan

| 12/9/2010

Officials in Louisville could vote next week on plans to toll existing Ohio River bridges in Louisville to help fund two new bridges and to reconstruct the Spaghetti Junction interchange. OOIDA and other groups say tolling of existing infrastructure is double taxation on highway users.

The next business meeting of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority is 10 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Dec. 16, at the Kentucky International Convention Center, Room 109, 221 S. 4th St., Louisville, KY 40202.

Prior to that, the bi-state agency will host a public input meeting from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 13, at the Muhammad Ali Center, View Point Hall, 6th Floor, One Muhammad Ali Plaza, 144 N. Sixth St., Louisville KY 40202.

Officials estimate that the project will cost in excess of $4 billion, with approximately $1.9 billion slated to come from potential state and federal sources. That leaves the agency with $2.1 billion to raise through the tolling of two, three or four existing bridges.

“Initial studies indicate that toll revenues could be sufficient to bridge the gap between total costs and available state and federal funding,” agency officials stated in a Dec. 2 financial report. The agency could vote Dec. 16 to accept the recommendations of the report and send them on to the Kentucky and Indiana state DOTs and the Federal Highway Administration.

The agency filed an “expression of interest” to the FHWA in May seeking guidance about federal tolling programs. The bistate group has four working scenarios involving variable tolling, also known as congestion pricing, on existing highway bridges.

Bridges the agency could toll include the Sherman Minton Bridge, the John F. Kennedy Bridge, the East End Bridge and possibly the U.S. 31 bridge. The two proposed new bridges would also be tolled.

OOIDA has rallied members through calls to action to make their voices heard on the proposal. The Association also stands with a local group, Say No to Bridge Tolls, founded by Louisville resident Shawn Reilly.

Reilly has organized rallies to demonstrate the unpopularity and potential negative effects of tolling in the region. He is currently pursuing possible conflict-of-interest allegations against appointed members of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority.

Reilly is demanding that each member of the agency submit a disclosure declaring any potential conflicts. He says a number of members have ties to companies that stand to profit from the multi-billion project.

“The public needs to know if Tolling Authority members or their families have ties to Wall Street banks or construction companies that stand to profit from potentially lucrative construction, consulting, or finance contracts,” Reilly stated in a press release Wednesday, Dec. 8.

He says he will file formal ethics complaints if the disclosures are not signed by the Dec. 16 meeting.