LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS) -- It's a familiar drive for tens of thousands of drivers living in Kentuckiana, the trek across the border over the Ohio River.
"We have drivers who are having a much better commute each and every day," RiverLink spokesperson Mindy Peterson said. "It's faster. It's safer."
With the commute over the bridges, there are also the tolls.
"We had not had tolling in the Louisville area for 70 years," Peterson said. "It was a long stretch. We had tolls on the Clark Memorial Bridge - cost 35 cents to cross the bridge. It had been a long time."
With tolling playing an important role in Kentuckiana's infrastructure, WHAS11 sat down with Peterson as the program turns one year old, learning about the successes and the challenges the program faces going into year two.
"They don't want to hear about tolls," she said. "They don't want to think about tolls. But it is necessary. And the bottom line is without tolls, we do not have the Ohio River Bridges project."
According to Peterson, more than 57 million cars have made the trek across the three toll bridges - the Lincoln, Kennedy and Lewis and Clark bridges - since last December when the tolling program began. The money from the tolls goes towards paying for the bridge construction and maintenance of project areas, including roads and ramps leading to the bridges.
Peterson said the money from the tolls is split evenly with half the money going to Kentucky and the other half going to Indiana, with the money required to be used for its specified purposes. The Ohio River Bridges project is expected to be paid off in 2053, and according to Peterson, the first year's revenue is already more than what it was projected to be.
"The bridges project did exactly what it was designed to do, and that gives drivers more options, more choices and more room," she said. "We just have a lot more space."
But the toll program has not been without its growing pains. One of the issues Peterson highlighted were long customer service call times in the early months and again in the fall and winter seasons once registration holds were mentioned by RiverLink.
"We added staff. We made a lot of improvements," she said. "Those customer response times went way down. This summer, month after month, we were answering calls in less than a minute, which was fantastic."
Peterson also stressed that drivers should sign up for a RiverLink prepaid account and use the transponders when crossing the toll bridges, which would save them money and make sure the tolls are paid.
"There are many more layers to the process when you talk about invoices," Peterson said. "People don't receive them as quickly as they expect to. People set them aside. They don't pay them on time. Fees are added. That's where some of the frustrations have grown."
No matter what, people will probably never love the idea of paying money for tolls, but by understanding the tolling program, Peterson hopes it will make spending that money a little easier.
For more information about the RiverLink tolling program or how to sign up for an account and a transponder.
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