Responding to the growing anxiety over tolling, a handful of Louisville Metro Council members led by Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, have drafted a resolution opposing fees on the city’s existing bridges and roads as a means to pay for the $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project.
The measure making the rounds through City Hall calls it a “flawed policy to place tolls on existing transportation infrastructure” and that it is “fundamentally wrong to force tolls on hard-working citizens from Louisville.” It adds that the Ohio River should serve as a point of unity for the region, “not as a barrier dividing the metropolitan area.”
“I think tolls can be necessary to fund large projects, however, we don’t agree that we should pay for this project by tolling existing transportation infrastructure,” says Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, who sponsored the resolution. “The other component that’s critical is this resolution does not take a position for or against one bridge or two bridges. This resolution affirms that the ORBP should be built in phases, beginning with the East End bridge.”
The Jefferson County attorney’s office reviewed the measure and sent it back to the council yesterday, where it is being examined by its sponsors. Once it is submitted to the council clerk’s office it will be assigned to a committee by next week.
The council is responding to the wildly unpopular tolling options that have been unveiled by the Louisville-Southern Indiana Bridges Authority, which most recently considered tolling parts of Spaghetti Junction that do not cross a bridge.
Besides rising temperatures over tolls, Ward-Pugh says the council has also been prompted to speak up in part by the New Albany City Council’s condemnation of the fees, which passed last month.
In 2009, Ward-Pugh co-sponsored a measure requesting that public hearings concerning the bridges project be held in each district. The council, however, ignored that measure and voted to give Gov. Steve Beshear and Mayor Jerry Abramson the power appoint their respective members of the bi-state authority.
“I haven’t regretted anything more than that decision to give away our authority to an unelected appointing body,” she says. “It has been the most egregious error that I believe this council has made in the past seven and a half years. All we can do at this point is draft a non-binding, flimsy resolution stating our position on what the bi-state authority is considering when it should be us debating the different funding mechanisms.”
In today’s Courier-Journal, a report says that Councilman Jim King, D-10, was the one considering a resolution against tolls. However, a copy of the measure obtained by LEO Weekly shows Ward-Pugh as the lone and original sponsor.
According to Ward-Pugh, there was a mis-communication with King and the newspaper, and the resolution has four additional co-sponsors, including King along with Council President Tom Owen, D-8, Councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch, D-13, and Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26.
“I don’t want to take the bulk of the credit to be honest. I was the point person who went through the steps of sending it over to the county attorney’s office and agreed to get it in the system,” she says. “It’s a group effort and it’s open right now to co-sponsors until Noon tomorrow … we’re hopeful to get some Republican support because we’re shopping it to anybody who’ll join us.”