Ky. joins highway toll group E-ZPass

Posted at 10:05 PM, Nov 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-18 22:05:48-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. — "Tolls" has become a dirty word in some Northern Kentucky circles when talking about the aging Brent Spence Bridge, but elsewhere in the state authorities are preparing to start collecting on two new bridges crossing the Ohio River.

The Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority announced Friday its application to join the E-ZPass Group, which allows commuters to pay tolls automatically using electronic transponders along toll roads and bridges across 15 states, was approved.

RELATED: Will Bevin mean progress or pause for Brent Spence?

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said the authority sought membership with the group in preparation for the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges project.

To pay for the $2.3 billion project, both bridges planned to span the river will require a toll for passage. Tolling is set to begin late 2016 and will be completely electronic.

The KPTIA’s announcement comes as discussion — and dissent — renews surrounding the future of Greater Cincinnati’s Brent Spence Bridge, after voters elected tea party-approved Republican Matt Bevin to the governor’s office.

READ MORE: What you need to know about the BSB project

Both outgoing governor Steve Beshear and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have said they do not see the bridge being replaced without financing the project — at least partially — through tolls, but other high-ranking officials, including Sec. of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, have opposed using tolls to pay for a new bridge.

One element of Bevin's campaign to Northern Kentucky voters was his opposition to tolls.

Wolfe’s announcement did not mention the Brent Spence Bridge specifically, but because Ohio is also a member in the E-ZPass Group, tolls could be collected on the bridge using E-ZPass’ transponders.

Leaders have estimated the cost of replacing the Brent Spence Bridge at around $2.6 billion.