Bridges Project Seeks Input on Potential Measures to Mitigate Toll Impacts on Low-Income, Minority Drivers — Open House Meetings Set for July 22 and 23

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LOUISVILLE (June 27, 2013) – The Ohio River Bridges Project has published a draft assessment of the economic impacts of tolls on low-income and minority populations, including an evaluation of potential measures to mitigate disproportionate effects.  CLICK HERE to open report 

The project is seeking public input on the report and potential mitigation measures through a range of outreach methods, including open house meetings set for July 22 and 23. The public is also invited to comment online by July 26.  CLICK HERE to provide online comments

The meetings will be held July 22 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Clarksville, 505 Marriott Dr., Clarksville, Ind., and July 23 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage, 1701 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd., Louisville, Ky.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Indiana Department of Transportation committed to a more extensive analysis of potential economic impacts as part of the Revised Record of Decision from the Federal Highway Administration.

The states are paying for the Bridges Project with a combination of traditional transportation funding (gas tax revenues) and tolls. The Bridges Project plans to use only no-stop, all-electronic tolling to keep traffic flowing without toll plazas and coin buckets. Overhead cameras and electronic receivers will record all the vehicles that cross.

Tolls limited to new and improved bridges

Tolls are planned for only the new and improved bridges – the East End Crossing and the Downtown Crossing, which includes a new I-65 northbound bridge and a revamped Kennedy Bridge for I-65 southbound traffic. The Sherman Minton Bridge (I-64) and Clark Memorial Bridge (U.S. 31) will not be tolled as part of the Bridges Project, providing two free river crossing options for cross-river travelers who wish to avoid tolls.

The toll-free bridges are located in close proximity to the largest concentrations of low-income and minority populations in both Jefferson and Clark/Floyd counties.

Report evaluates additional measures to lessen tolling impacts

The states have already made initial commitments to lessen the impacts of tolls by providing $20 million to the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) to provide enhanced cross-river bus service, including more than 20 new buses and vans and several park-and-ride lots. The report also recommends consideration of exempting TARC vehicles from tolls on the new and improved bridges.

The report evaluates several additional measures that could further lessen the impact of tolls on low-income and minority populations. The report and public input on the measures evaluated will be used by members of a bi-state Tolling Body as they make decisions about tolling policy.

Many of the mitigation measures focus on the availability and use of transponders – the electronic, vehicle-mounted devices used to record trips across a tolled bridge. Among the transponder measures recommended for consideration:

  • Providing free transponders to maximize use and keep costs low
  • Distributing transponders through retailers, such as grocery stores and markets;  motor vehicle licensing offices; and other government offices convenient for low-income and minority populations
  • Establishing “toll operations offices” within low-income and minority communities to allow people to directly and conveniently manage their accounts. These locations could include a mobile site, like a “bookmobile.”
  • Developing a Web site and/or smart phone mobile app, so users can order transponders online and have them shipped directly to their homes or businesses.

Several other mitigation methods recommended for further consideration are focused on the financial accounts that motorists will create to pay tolls. They include:

  • Establishing a relatively low minimum balance for accounts
  • Allowing a wide range of options for the replenishment of funds in a user’s account, including cash, credit/debit cards, money orders, bank transfers, online payments and a smart phone mobile app
    • Allowing multiple users/transponders to be funded under a single account
    • Establishing brick-and-mortar locations, such as government buildings, DMV locations and grocery stores, as examples, with particular emphasis on low-income areas and minority neighborhoods, for individuals to replenish or make deposits to tolling accounts. Likewise, a mobile source, like a “bookmobile,” could be used to improve convenience.
    • Developing a Web site that would allow for the management of accounts online

As part of the public input process, the states are also conducting interviews with representative samples of community leaders and citizens in low-income and minority neighborhoods. Those responses, along with the input from open house meetings, comment forms and other methods, will be incorporated into a report that will be reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration and the bi-state Tolling Body.

Establishing Toll Rates

Tolls on the new and improved bridges will not be collected until 2016 and toll rates have not yet been determined. However, Kentucky and Indiana have set the following target rates for motorists using transponders:

  •     $1 per crossing for frequent commuters in passenger vehicles or on motorcycles who commute back and forth every weekday
  •     $2 per crossing for cars, trucks, SUVs and motorcycles crossing the bridges less frequently
  •     $5 per crossing for panel or box trucks
  •     $10 per crossing for semi-trucks or tractor trailer rigs

Video

The video below provides highlights of the project, electronic tolling, the mitigation report, and the opportunities for public input.

Media Contacts:

Chuck Wolfe, Kentucky Tranportation Cabinet, chuck.wolfe@ky.gov, (502) 564-3419
Will Wingfield, Indiana Department of Transportation, wwingfield@indot.in.gov, (317) 233-4675