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Rick Howlett covered today’s committee meeting of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority. He reports…

A committee of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority is recommending that construction on the $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges project begin in August of 2012, and that frequent commuters be charged a one dollar toll to help pay for it.

The project includes new Ohio River bridges in downtown Louisville and eastern Jefferson County (right) and a reconfiguration of Spaghetti Junction.

Panel chairman Kerry Stemler says it remains to be seen whether the toll would be charged on just the new bridges or exsiting ones as well, which would require federal approval. He says the one dollar figure is a good starting point.

Read the whole story and response from toll opponents at WFPL.



Several members of the Louisville Metro Council are reviewing a resolution that would oppose the use of tolls on existing bridges as a means of paying for new bridges in the Ohio River Bridges Project.

LEO says Tina Ward-Pugh is leading the efforts (contrary to earlier reports), along with fellow Democrats Jim King, Tom Owen, Vicki Aubrey Welch and Brent Ackerson. Ward-Pugh has a history of opposing the Ohio River Bridges Project. She supported 8664 co-founder Tyler Allen in the Democratic primary for mayor this year, and she fought against the formation of the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority. But the resolution does not take a stand against the actual infrastructure plans for the bridges project.

“I think tolls can be necessary to fund large projects, however, we don’t agree that we should pay for this project by tolling existing transportation infrastructure,” says Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, who sponsored the resolution. “The other component that’s critical is this resolution does not take a position for or against one bridge or two bridges. This resolution affirms that the ORBP should be built in phases, beginning with the East End bridge.”

The bridges authority restated its dedication to the two-bridge project in their latest meeting.

While the authority has discussed tolling existing bridges, nothing has been confirmed. (For a look at the tolls being considered and how they might affect traffic if they’re imposed on existing bridges, click here.)

New Albany’s city council has passed a similar anti-toll resolution.

WFPL’s Rick Howlett talked to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels today. Daniels says he’s not planning on running for President in 2012 (though he’s being encouraged to) and he supports using tolls to pay for new bridges between Indiana and Kentucky.

“It’s the only way to do it,” he said. “My own view is that it’s a very fair thing to do. Out of state motorists will pay a very high percentage of the cost this way. I don’t think a users fee basically is unfair in any way.”

The anti-toll group Say No To Bridge Tolls (ontological, no?) is lauding Republican Mayoral candidate Hal Heiner for his recent stance on the Ohio River Bridges Project. Heiner is still in favor of building two bridges, but he said yesterday the east-end bridge should be built first, and the reworking of Spaghetti Junction and the downtown bridge should be put off or reworked until they are more affordable. The plan was presented as a way to keep tolls on the new bridges low.

The coalition sent out this statement yesterday:

…It was forward thinking and encouraging for Heiner to take the courageous step of being open to “streamlining the project to an affordable level” while not abandoning the project altogether.

Shawn Reilly, co-founder of Say NO to Bridge Tolls said “I am pleased to see Hal Heiner taking a progressive stance on the Ohio River Bridges Project that is more in line with our goal of reducing the design and scope of the Project into phases, that can be financed without tolls and connects our communities in a reasonable and affordable way”

We’re calling on candidates Greg Fischer and Jackie Green to follow Heiner’s lead by modifying their platforms on the Ohio River Bridges Project and calling on all candidates for public office to take a stand against tolls on our existing bridges. It’s vital for Louisville’s future to reduce the scope of the Project into phases that don’t require any tolls.

As an overview, Fischer says $3 tolls are too high and would like to complete the project as soon as possible. Green says public transit should be improved first, as bridges may not be necessary if Louisville has a top-notch bus/rail system.

Louisville isn’t the only city facing tolls. And Louisville’s anti-toll activists may not be the most active out there. CN2 has a rundown of which other cities where tolls are being discussed.

But opposition to the Ohio River Bridges Project isn’t just about tolls…there’s the downtown interstate (and larger interchange) side as well. What are other cities doing about urban interstates? Well, New Orleans could be getting rid of one.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said last week that he’s open to consider a proposal to remove a two-mile elevated stretch of I-10 from the city. I-10 is accused of (in Robert Moses-style) splitting a minority neighborhood.

Construction in the 1960s of the elevated interstate, particularly the stretch that towers over North Claiborne Avenue, has been blamed for cleaving a wide swath of once-thriving residential and commercial communities and forcing scores of businesses owned by African-American entrepreneurs to shut down.

Amid looming maintenance expenses and a new national focus on urban renewal, experts have suggested removing the Claiborne Expressway from the Pontchartrain Expressway to Elysian Fields Avenue. Traffic would be diverted on surface streets or along Interstate 610.

The proposal is part of New Orleans’ new master plan, a dense document designed to spell out planning priorities for the next two decades. The City Council is expected to consider the final version next month.

The elevated stretch of I-10 “gave people more impetus to bypass the city than to stay in it,” Landrieu said. Tearing it down, he said, could attract new residents and businesses, a goal most mayors try to achieve by building new infrastructure.

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