HENDERSON, KY (WFIE) - Many people accept the idea of paying tolls on a new bridge, but adding a toll to the remaining twin bridge, which is currently free? Not a popular idea.
That was the general theme heard during the first I-69 Ohio River Crossing Public Hearing of 2019.
Nearly 200 people attended the presentation Monday at Henderson Community & Technical College.
Henderson area leaders and elected officials first took the podium to voice their thoughts. All agreed this is the biggest hurdle the area is facing.
BACKGROUND: Central Alternative 1A and Central Alternative 1B both include a 4-lane I-69 bridge and retain one US 41 bridge. Neither of the preferred alternatives includes retaining both of the current Twin Bridges. In addition, both alternatives include tolling the I-69 bridge. 1A includes tolling the US 41 bridge. 1B includes tolling only the I-69 bridge.
“Almost every person I know goes to and from Evansville for vital services, work and shopping," Republican Kentucky State Senator Robby Mills said during Monday’s hearing.
Several citizens testified tolling on a remaining Twin Bridge would be a huge financial burden to local travelers.
“A lot of people in this community are on fixed incomes," said one speaker, a Henderson resident. “You cut out that bridge, you’re going to do harm. You toll those two bridges if they stand--or that one bridge if it stands--you’re going to do harm."
I-69 ORX Spokesperson Mindy Peterson briefed the audience on what tolling costs could look like, using an example from current figures in the Louisville area.
For basic passenger vehicles with a prepaid account transponder, it’s $2 every time you cross. It’s double that without a transponder.
“Big difference...if you don’t have that account transponder, it’s $4," Peterson said. "There’s more work that has to be done there. Cameras have to take a picture, and they have to track who that vehicle belongs to. Then the invoice has to be generated. So, it’s much more efficient if you have that prepaid account.”
Peterson mentioned medium-sized vehicles pay a little bit more, like box trucks. Larger vehicles like semi-trucks pay up to $12 a crossing.
“Again, that’s not to say what our toll rates would be," Peterson reiterated, “but, that gives you a ball park with what some of the numbers have been plugged into the scenarios here.”
Project officials also noted the possibility of mitigation as this final selection process moves forward.
If the preferred alternative would be tolling both I-69 and the remaining US 41 Bridge, tolling mitigation would be considered, according to Peterson. That means the possibility of discounts for groups like low-income families or people who have to cross every day.
We’ll keep you updated as this federal process continues.