Thursday, 07 18, 2013
Chuck Wolfe, KYTC
Focus on Lessening Effects on Low-Income, Minority Drivers
LOUISVILLE (July 18, 2013) – If you have opinions about lessening the impacts of bridge tolls on low-income and minority populations, the Ohio River Bridges Project wants to hear from you.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Indiana Department of Transportation committed to a more extensive analysis of potential economic impacts of using tolls, which will help pay for the new bridges and highways under construction as part of the Revised Record of Decision from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
The Ohio River Bridges Project has published a draft assessment of the economic impacts of tolls on low-income and minority populations, including an evaluation of potential measures to mitigate disproportionate effects.
The project is seeking public input on the report and potential mitigation measures through a range of outreach methods, including open house meetings set for July 22 and 23.
The open house meetings will be held:
· Monday, July 22, from 4 to 7 p.m. EDT at the Holiday Inn Clarksville, 505 Marriott Dr., Clarksville, Ind.
· Tuesday, July 23, from 4 to 7 p.m. EDT at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage, 1701 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd., Louisville, Ky.
For those using public transportation, the route information for Transit Authority of River City (TARC) is:
· July 22 meeting – Take TARC to the Spring Street stops at 14th or 15th streets in Jeffersonville, Ind. Shuttle to Holiday Inn Clarksville will be provided at that point.
· July 23 meeting – Take TARC to the Muhammad Ali & 17th Street stop.
At the meetings, people will have a chance to learn more about the project, plans for tolling and measures being considered to lessen the impacts of tolling on low-income and minority populations. Display areas will feature information boards, and project representatives will be on hand to talk one-on-one with citizens. Informational videos and handouts will be available.
Citizens can comment in a variety of ways at the meeting or any time before July 26:
· Online – Go to www.kyinbridges.com and click on the Downtown Links “News, Events and Alerts” or East End Links “Newsroom”
· Writing – Letters can be mailed to Bridges Project Research, 620 W. Main St., 4th Floor, Louisville, KY 40202
· Recording – Court reporters will be available at stations at the public meetings for anyone who wants to dictate comments.
· Comment forms – Comments can be personally written on forms that will be made available at the meetings.
Citizens are encouraged to read the draft report prepared by the states, DRAFT Assessment of Economic Effects of Tolling and Potential Strategies for Mitigating Effects of Tolling on Low-Income and Minority Populations (DRAFT Report). You can read the DRAFT Report online at www.kyinbridges.com or view a copy at the meeting or public library branches in Louisville, Jeffersonville and Clarksville. Copies have also been distributed to numerous community centers in the area.
Extensive outreach to seek comments from low-income, minority citizens
Continuing the Bridges Project’s long history of seeking public input, Kentucky and Indiana are reaching out to low-income and minority populations in a variety of ways to ensure they are informed and have a chance to comment on the impacts of tolling.
The states are conducting interviews with representative samples of community leaders and citizens in low-income and minority neighborhoods. Nearly 250 people have provided input through interviews to date.
These responses, along with the input from open house meetings, comment forms and other methods, will be incorporated into a FINAL report that will be submitted to FHWA and a bi-state Tolling Body, which will set toll rates.
Informational flyers, posters and copies of the DRAFT Report have been distributed in 47 locations including public libraries, community centers, churches and offices located in or near low-income and minority neighborhoods.
In addition to 19 public libraries, here are other community locations where you can find information about tolling and view the DRAFT Report:
Community Development Bank
2901 West Broadway, Louisville
St. Stephen’s Baptist Church
1018 S. 15th Street, Louisville
948 Dixie Hwy, Louisville
2701 Veterans Pkwy, Jeffersonville
Portland Community Center
640 North 27th Street, Louisville
California Community Center
1600 West St. Catherine Street, Louisville
Beechmont Community Center
205 West Wellington Avenue, Louisville
Parkhill Community Center
1703 South 13th Street, Louisville
Sun Valley Community Center
6505 Bethany Lane, Valley Station
South Louisville Community Center
2911 Taylor Boulevard, Louisville
Elim Baptist Church
3114 Greenwood Avenue, Valley Station
1535 West Broadway, Louisville
Americana Community Center
4801 Southside Drive, Louisville
Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church
3201 Portland Avenue, Louisville
201 National Avenue, Jeffersonville
Northwest Neighborhood Place
4018 West Market Street, Louisville
Shawnee Golf Course
460 Northwester Pkwy, Louisville
Griffin Street Community Center
1140 Griffin Street, New Albany
Tolls limited to new and improved bridges
The states are paying for the Bridges Project with a combination of traditional transportation funding (gas tax revenues) and tolls. The Bridges Project plans to use only no-stop, all-electronic tolling to keep traffic flowing without toll plazas and coin buckets. Overhead cameras and electronic receivers will record all the vehicles that cross.
Tolls are planned for only the new and improved bridges – the East End Crossing and the Downtown Crossing, which includes a new I-65 northbound bridge and a revamped Kennedy Bridge for I-65 southbound traffic. The Sherman Minton Bridge (I-64) and Clark Memorial Bridge (U.S. 31) will not be tolled as part of the Bridges Project, providing two free river crossing options for drivers who wish to avoid tolls. The toll-free bridges are in close proximity to the largest concentrations of low-income and minority populations in both Jefferson and Clark/Floyd counties.
Tolls on the new and improved bridges will not be collected until 2016, and toll rates have not yet been determined. However, Kentucky and Indiana have set the following target rates for motorists using transponders:
- $1 per crossing for “frequent commuters” in passenger vehicles or on motorcycles
- $2 per crossing for cars, trucks, SUVs and motorcycles crossing the bridges infrequently
- $5 per crossing for panel or box trucks
- $10 per crossing for semi-trucks or tractor trailer rigs
DRAFT Report evaluates additional measures to lessen tolling impacts
The states have already committed to lessening the impacts of project construction and tolls by providing $20 million to the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) for enhanced cross-river bus service, including more than 20 new buses and vans and several park-and-ride lots. The DRAFT Report recommends consideration of exempting TARC vehicles from tolls.
Some other mitigation measures evaluated in the DRAFT Report focus on the availability and use of transponders – electronic, vehicle-mounted devices that record trips across a tolled bridge. Among the transponder measures recommended for consideration:
- Providing free transponders to maximize use and keep costs low
- Distributing transponders through retailers, such as grocery stores and markets; motor vehicle licensing offices; and other government offices convenient for low-income and minority populations
- Establishing “toll operations offices” within low-income and minority communities to allow people to directly and conveniently manage their accounts. These locations could include a mobile site, like a “bookmobile.”
- Developing a Web site and/or smart phone mobile app, so users can order transponders online and have them shipped directly to their homes or businesses.
Several other mitigation methods recommended for further consideration are focused on the financial accounts that motorists with transponders will create to pay tolls. They include:
- Establishing a relatively low minimum balance
- Allowing a wide range of options for replenishment of funds in a user’s account, including cash, credit/debit cards, money orders, bank transfers, online payments and a smart phone mobile app
- Allowing multiple users/transponders to be funded under a single account
- Establishing brick-and-mortar locations, such as government buildings, DMV locations and grocery stores, as examples, with particular emphasis on low-income areas and minority neighborhoods, for individuals to replenish or make deposits to tolling accounts. Likewise, a mobile source, like a “bookmobile,” could be used to improve convenience.
- Developing a Web site that would allow for the management of accounts online.
Public input – whether in the form of comments on potential mitigation measures already identified or suggestions of other measures – is vital to Bridges Project decision making and the work of the bi-state Tolling Body.