Mayor Greg Fischer Has An Idea To Eliminate Tolls On Louisville’s Bridges

Mar 2, 2022 at 3:46 pm
The tolled Abraham Lincoln Bridge.  |  Photo by Christopher Fryer.
The tolled Abraham Lincoln Bridge. | Photo by Christopher Fryer.

This story has been updated.

Mayor Greg Fischer sees a way for Louisvillians and other drivers to stop paying tolls on the downtown and East End bridges: Have the federal government pay for it. 

He got the idea upon hearing news that Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine have committed to applying for $2 billion in federal infrastructure funds to build a companion bridge for the aging Brent Spence Bridge in Covington, Kentucky. 

His thought was, why can’t the same be done for the Ohio River Bridges?

“Here in Louisville and Southern Indiana, we worked for decades and finally got the community will to build the bridges, but we said we'd paid for ‘em, because we knew it'd be good for the economy and a forward looking move by us,” he told LEO. “So the Northern Kentucky folks and Southern Ohio have been kind of waiting around to see if the federal government will pay for it. So to me, it's a matter of equity, that we shouldn't be penalized for believing in ourselves down here.”

There’s lots of infrastructure funding out there now, thanks to the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year.

The Ohio River Bridges Project cost around $2.3 billion. As of 2020, the bridges had brought in $386.9 million in toll revenue.

From the infrastructure bill, Kentucky is expected to receive $4.6 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $438 million for bridge replacement and repairs over the next five years, according to the White House. Indiana could receive $6.6 billion and $401 million, respectively. It’s not clear whether these funds could be used to pay for the already completed Ohio River Bridges Project.

But, both states are eligible to apply for $12.5 billion set aside to pay for economically significant bridges around the country and $16 billion for major projects that would deliver “substantial economic benefits to communities.”

Kentucky may be applying for that money to go toward the Brent Spence Bridge, but Indiana hasn’t announced any intentions yet to apply for bridge funding.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said that Louisville is expected to get "significant funding" from the infrastructure bill, including investments in electrical vehicle charging stations, public transit, high-speed internet access, airports and water and sewer upgrades.

"We look forward to determining all possible uses of the federal dollars but have been advised they will come with certain restrictions," said KYTC's Deputy Executive Director of Public Affairs Chuck Wolfe in a statement. "We will be evaluating the options with the USDOT when their guidance is issued in the coming months."

Fischer said he’s made contact with Jeffersonville mayor Mike Moore about his idea, and he plans to pen a formal letter soon, petitioning Gov. Beshear and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. 

Fischer said, “Our people and our businesses deserve this. We shouldn't be penalized for stepping out and believing in ourselves several years ago now, and I hope we can get it done.”

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