How much will tolls be for the new Brent Spence Bridge?

Prices have not yet been determined

CINCINNATI - Kathleen Matchinga has a lot on her mind these days running Val-Air Valet Parking in Hebron, adjacent to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

However, another topic that was top-of-mind Thursday was tolls to help pay for the Brent Spence Bridge replacement.

"My customers and I use the bridge every day," she said. "If there are going to be tolls, we'd like to know what those tolls are going to be."

Both Ohio Governor John Kasich and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear made it clear Wednesday tolls will have to be part of a financing package for the $2.5 billion project.

"The reason tolls will be on the bridge is to pay for the financing that we do," Gov. Beshear said.

Gov. Kasich added, "We don't want a toll to create any sort of slush fund.  We're tolling for the purposes of just building the bridge."  

However, the amount of the toll has not been determined.

"There's no way to project that at this point because it depends upon so many things," Gov. Beshear said. "It depends upon what it will end up costing us."

There may be an indication of the fee when a "Value for Money Study" is completed in late January or early February.

That study is being conducted to help the Kentucky General Assembly prepare the appropriate legislation for the project. The pre-financing plan has to be done by the end of next year so ground can be broken for the first phase of the project in early 2014.

There's still resistance to tolling by some members of the Northern Kentucky delegation in Frankfort.

Tolls are part of the financing package for the two bridges being built in Louisville that connect Kentucky and Indiana.

However, Chuck Wolfe, spokesperson for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said those rates have yet to be set.

National transportation experts say tolls that help finance bridge projects can range from $1 to $15, based on the type of vehicle and the time of day.

The Ohio Turnpike in northern Ohio charges tolls per mile driven by seven vehicle classes. It costs cars 7 cents a mile if cash is used and 5 cents a mile for the EZ Pass program. It's 18 cents per mile for trucks, whose drivers pay in cash, and 15 cents per mile for EZ Pass users.

As entrepreneur Bill Cunningham digested the Brent Spence information Thursday, the President of One More Pallet had several questions for which he sought answers.

"I'd be interested in knowing what kind of technology they're going to use to collect the tolls and how they are going to make everybody pay?" Cunningham said.

One option is the previously referenced EZ Pass program. Another might be cameras that take pictures of license plates on vehicles that don't pay the tolls. It's unlikely that old-fashioned catch baskets for change will be used.

The bottom line is that the bridge replacement project is on the fast track.

"We're going to build this bridge," Gov. Kasich stated. "We're going to get this done."

Gov. Beshear added, "I think we're going to find the best way and the cheapest way to get the job done."

He pointed out that the original cost estimate for the two Louisville area bridges approached $4.2 billion. However, when all was said and done, the price dropped to $2.6 billion (or $1.3 billion for each span). Kentucky is building one of the spans and Indiana the other.

Similar cost reductions will be sought for the Kentucky-Ohio project.

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