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Reason #997 The ↓town ORBP Is Bad 4 Louisville

June 7, 2010

“City may pave way with electronic tolling system”. This was the predictably positive headline on a non-editorial story featured in today’s Courier-Journal. Although the headline attempted to put a positive spin on Louisville’s impending disaster, the content of the article did have some prescient facts and unbiased expert opinion.  Mike Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation  Center at the University of Washington noted the difficulty in collecting tolls from out of town drivers.

‘If you’re going to do license plate tolling, that’s great so long as you actually have legal authority to go get the money. … How are you going to go get people from Illinois, people from Florida going the other way? There’s a toll-collection issue that is … significant,’

The article goes on to point out a major, no doubt intentional, oversight in the recently expanded state taxpayer funded study of tolling options.

“‘The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet doesn’t keep data on who drives the interstates and bridges connecting Louisville and Southern Indiana, and that information is not part of the $186,000 toll study consultant Wilbur Smith Associates is conducting for the cabinet.” 

To the Courier-Journal’s credit the story included an analysis of the origins of cross river traffic trips from University of Louisville economist and 8664 proponent Paul Coomes. Additionaly, The C-J did their own research into the percentage of cross river travelers by using census data, ultimately conlcluding that non-locals are the majority.

“But other figures, including census data, suggest that more than half of the 236,000 vehicles that cross the three spans over the Ohio River — the Sherman Minton, Kennedy and Clark Memorial bridges — each day originate from outside the Louisville area.”

It is not until halfway through the article, probably in the interior pages of the print edition, that the bombshell revelation of the Dallas and Denver area toll road collection rates is established.

“In the Dallas and Denver areas, collection rates from out-of-state drivers range between about 30 percent and 60 percent, according to toll agencies.”

So according to the Courier-Journal about half of the traffic crossing the river is non-local and these folks are expected to pay somewhere between 30-60% of the time. Isn’t the whole point of a toll road to make all users pay for their share of the road’s construction and maintenance costs? In the electronic tolling scenario favored by the ORBP and the C-J editorial board, locals will be paying for a disproportionate share of building and maintaining a hideously ugly, $2-4 billion expanded waterfront expressway and a massive quadruple stacked Los Angeles style Kennedy interchange that will define Louisville’s image for the next 110+ years. 

Although the issue of electronic tolling collection rates should have been covered years ago, the content of the C-J’s article was refreshingly even-handed. I can’t say as much about the headline though. A more neutral headline reflecting the great journalistic tradition of the Courier-Journal would read, City Pioneers Use Of Electronic Tolls, Questions Persist or Bridges Plan On Cutting Edge Of Tolling, Questions Persist. Important issues not covered by this Courier-Journal article include the numerous revenue shortfalls for recently built toll roads, an analysis of the change in traffic pattern after tolls are added, and the fact that cars must slow down to have their licence plates scanned by electronic tolling technology.

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3 comments

  1. To Stu Noland

    TONIGHT -2911 Taylor BLvd. – South Louisville Community Center – 6:30pm

    US Department of Trans Fed Highway Adm

    PUBLIC INPUT.

    Can you bring your petition to appeal for a revisit of 2003 ROD [Record of Decision] for ORBP?

    David E. Blank


  2. [...] the waterfront is still there.  Not least among the unavoidable, insulting repetitions is a toll (disproportionately borne by locals) to help pay for the massive [...]



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