In a meeting held earlier today, the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority heard scenarios to pay for the $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, which included tolling parts of Interstates 64 and 71 that don’t cross a bridge.
From The Courier-Journal:
Under the Spaghetti Junction proposal, for example, a driver taking I-64 west into downtown Louisville would be tolled at some point in the interchange, even if the route doesn’t require switching to another interstate.
The authority’s chairman, Charles Buddeke of Louisville, and co-chairman, Kerry Stemler of Sellersburg, Ind., both said in interviews after the meeting that it’s too early to predict whether tolls in Spaghetti Junction interchange will be part of the financial plan.
This comes a month after a financial estimate suggested charging drivers a $3 toll each way to cross the bridges and help pay for half the behemoth public works project, which includes building an East End bridge, a downtown bridge and re-configuring Spaghetti Junction. The bridges authority has until the end of the year to submit a final financing plan to pay for the project.
The anti-tolling sentiment has risen as a result, and both major party candidates in Louisville’s mayoral race are weighing in on the suggestion.
In response to today’s proposal, Republican mayoral candidate Hal Heiner, who favors scaling back the project if tolls exceed $2, called on the bridges authority to include an analysis of the economic impact of tolls on certain downtown businesses including among others 4th Street Live!, KFC Yum! Center Arena, Muhammad Ali Center, Slugger Field, Waterfront Park and the Kentucky Center for the Arts.
“I oppose tolling Spaghetti Junction. Asking our citizens to pay a toll every time they visit and leave our new arena, restaurants, museums or even hospitals is the kind of idea that will hurt jobs and families in Louisville,” Heiner said in a news release. “We should be working to pull Louisville out of this recession, not adding more of a financial burden on Louisvillians as they travel within our city. If this is the financing option to move forward with this project, I think we should make the responsible decision and break the project into phases, while moving forward with the portion we can afford, the east end bridge.”
In a recent poll by cn|2 Politics, over 50 percent of Louisville voters support building an East End bridge more than any other possible combination of the project. The survey showed only 17.3 percent support building a downtown bridge; 14.5 percent want both built; and 10.1 percent don’t want either.
In a statement sent to LEO Weekly, Democrat Greg Fischer, who supports building both bridges and last month said that voters shouldn’t “burn a lot a mental calories,” over the tolling amount, backhanded the suggestion of charging drivers on Spaghetti Junction.
“I’m all for creative funding ideas, but that’s the most outlandish thing I’ve ever heard,” he said. “I won’t support that — and the people of Louisville won’t support that.”