For months, Democratic mayoral candidate Greg Fischer has been steadfast in supporting the $4.1 Ohio River Bridges Project. However, the Louisville businessman wavered slightly at a recent press conference, saying there needs to be a plan B if the behemoth public works project isn’t financially feasible.
Greg Fischer says he’s on board with the official plan for the Ohio River Bridges Project, including starting construction of an East End bridge first before the downtown span. However, Fischer mentioned a possible Plan B, and he joins Republican candidate Hal Heiner, who suggested that the project needs to be downsized three weeks ago.
Earlier this week, Fischer told WFPL that any discussion of changing the project, which includes building an East End bridge, a downtown bridge and re-configuring Spaghetti Junction, should come after a financing plan is proposed.
However, public outrage over tolling has grown over the course of the campaign and in a close mayoral race Fischer is flirting with the idea of scaling the project back, which is a position that Republican Hal Heiner has been touting since June, when he argued that tolling wasn’t part of the original plan.
“I am glad to hear that Greg is once again following Hal’s lead. And it’s another example of why Greg isn’t ready to lead,” says Joe Burgan, Heiner’s campaign manager. “If Hal isn’t around for him to co-opt his policy, he doesn’t have any ideas and that’s not the sign of a leader.”
When asked if “plan B” indicates that public support for the project is waning in Fischer’s mind, what over the past few week has caused him to shift and to respond to his opponent, Fischer campaign spokesman Chris Poynter responded via e-mail: “Greg supports the entire bridges project — both bridges.”
The bridges project is becoming a more prominent issue in the race for mayor of Louisville, with the majority favoring a scaled down project as anxiety over tolling as a means to finance it rises.
In July, the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority released a financial estimate that suggested charging drivers a $3 toll each way to cross the bridges to help pay for the plan, which both major party candidates considered unacceptable. Then last week, the authorty heard scenarios to pay for the project that included tolling parts of Interstates 64 and 71 that don’t cross a bridge.
In a recent poll by cn|2 Politics, over 50 percent of Louisville voters said they 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.
Independent mayoral candidate Jackie Green, who favors shelving the project and investing in public transit, has said the survey indicates the plan should be scrapped.
“The project is on the ropes,” says Green.