Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Editorials

March 15, 2012

Taking a toll

Kentucky, Indiana governors reach commendable accord

ASHLAND — Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky and Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana have agreed on tolls for two new Ohio River bridges in Louisville plus a third bridge that will be revamped. The new tolls are much more reasonable than the tolls orignally proposed for the bridges, which were so high that they would have been a financial hardship on those who must cross one or more of the bridges daily to get to and from work.

The agreement between two governors calls for tolls beginning at about $1 per crossing for traffic on two new Ohio River bridges and the revamped Kennedy Bridge on Interstate 65. The agreement signed by Govs. Daniels and Beshear calls for tolling to start once the first span is completed in 2017 or 2018.

The toll prices aren’t set yet, but plans calls for $1 per crossing for frequent commuters in cars, SUVs and other passenger vehicles using transponders; about $2 for other cars, SUVs and passenger vehicles; about $5 for panel trucks and about $10 for tractor-trailers.

An earlier proposal called for $4 tolls for passenger vehicles. That would have meant that those using the bridges to get to and from work would be paying $8 per day or $40 per week. That’s quite a chunk, especially for those working part-time in minimum wage jobs in the fast food industry as many young people do.

The two states have little choice but to charge tolls to cross the bridges. At an estimated cost of more than $1 billion, the bridges are too costly for either state’s budgets. The only viable option was to charge “user fees” in the form of tolls. But a $4 toll would be so high it actually would have encouraged drivers to look for other ways to cross the river that separates Kentucky from Indiana. While they may not like paying a fee to cross a river they now can cross for free, most motorists will be willing to pay a $1 toll, considering it the cost of progress.

Indiana will oversee the construction of what’s called the East End bridge linking Indiana’s Lee Hamilton Expressway and Kentucky’s Gene Snyder Freeway. Kentucky will build the new I-65 bridge and improve the Kennedy bridge.

The bridges are critically needed and have been discussed for many years. Finally, they are nearing the point when actual construction begins. Both Republican Daniels and Democrat Beshear have made the bridges a high priority and are largely responsible for getting the spans off of square one. We commend them for that.

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