Ohio River bridge plan calls for tolls on 3 spans

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The governors of Indiana and Kentucky on Monday agreed to use tolls to pay for two new Ohio River bridges and a revamped Interstate 65 bridge over the river, all in the Louisville metropolitan area.

Tolls ranging from about $1 per crossing for passenger vehicles with transponders to about $10 for semitrailers will begin once the first bridge is completed in 2017 or 2018 under a memorandum of understanding that outlines each state's terms and responsibilities for financing and building the new bridges.

Under the bi-state agreement, Indiana will oversee construction of what's being called East End bridge between Utica, Ind., and Prospect, Ky., linking the Lee Hamilton Expressway in Indiana and the Gene Snyder Freeway in Kentucky. The bridge will complete a loop around the east side of the metropolitan area.

Kentucky will oversee financing and construction of the downtown portion of the project: a new downtown bridge, the reconfigured Kennedy Bridge and upgrades of interchanges on both sides of the river.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said "decades of waiting for greater convenience and quality of life in the metro area will soon be over."

"Southern Indiana has tremendous economic prospects and these new bridges are the key to making them real," he said in a news release.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said, "Through cooperation and determination, we will achieve what this region has talked about — but been unable to deliver — for four decades."

The toll rates 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 semitrailers. Toll rates would be set and periodically adjusted by the two states' transportation and finance agencies and governed by the financing contracts and bond agreements the states reach with private companies.

Kentucky has pledged $536 million for the downtown portion of the project, and Indiana has committed $432 million, the news release said.

Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield said Indiana will use a private company to finance the East End bridge, which is forecast to cost a total of nearly $1.3 billion, plus the cost of financing. Indiana will pay the $432 in milestone payments over eight years, then use proceeds from the tolls to pay off the remaining costs.

Kentucky will use a design-build approach with the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority issuing toll revenue bonds to help cover construction costs, the news release said.

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