JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A third group is joining a legal effort to block tolling on two bridges that will carry Interstate 65 traffic over the Ohio River between downtown Louisville, Ky., and southern Indiana.
The Jeffersonville City Council tentatively approved allocating $10,000 to the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau for the legal fight Monday, The Courier-Journal reported (http://cjky.it/UmywAb). A final vote by the council is likely Dec. 17.
The tourism bureau's board and the Clarksville Town Council both voted last month to allocate $10,000 each for legal costs to fight a joint Indiana-Kentucky plan to use traffic tolls to pay for a new I-65 bridge and refurbished Kennedy Bridge.
Opponents of the tolls fear they will hurt southern Indiana businesses, as an economic impact report released in April has projected.
However, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said Tuesday that tolling is necessary to help pay for the bridges.
Under the two states' plan, tolls will be introduced on the two downtown bridges as well as the East End bridge. Kentucky is building and rehabbing the I-65 bridges at a projected cost of $971 million, and Indiana is building the $763 million East End portion. Both portions are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016.
Wolfe said the two states have said consistently the only way the project could be completed would be with money other than state and federal highway dollars, and that the tolls will be used only to close the funding gap for the project.
The two states will split the total tolling proceeds, but with two-thirds of all the traffic on the three bridges occurring on I-65, Kentucky will in effect subsidize the Indiana construction costs on the East End Bridge, Wolfe said.
The economic impact report predicted that the new and refurbished bridges would have an overall positive effect, leading to creating new access, jobs, development and revenue near the planned East End Bridge.
The report acknowledged there would be an economic shift away from the I-65 exits in Jeffersonville and Clarksville, including the permanent loss of a southbound exit into downtown Jeffersonville. Plans call for that exit to be replaced by a ramp in Clarksville, about one mile to the north.
Paul Fetter, a Clarksville town councilman and a founder of the anti-tolling group No2BridgeTolls, has said the study showed tolls would cause about $230 million a year in revenue losses over the next 30 years along the I-65 corridor, mainly affecting the Clarksville and Jeffersonville business districts.
Kentucky and Indiana officials last month set July as the target for establishing initial toll amounts for the East End Bridge and the I-65 bridges. Preliminary estimates are that tolls will be set at $2 for cars, SUVs and other passenger vehicles; $5 for panel trucks and $10 for semitrailers.
The deadline for filing a lawsuit against the project is Dec. 20, six months after the federal government's approval of construction.
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com