2:15pm

Thu June 2, 2011
The Commonwealth

Opponents Welcome Bridge Changes

f a plan put forward by the mayor of Louisville and the governors of Kentucky and Indiana becomes reality, the Ohio River Bridges Project will cost $1.2 billion less than previously expected. And critics of the project are celebrating that news.

The proposal would cut two lanes from the east end bridge and change how Spaghetti Junction is rebuilt to accommodate a new downtown bridge. It would bring the total cost of the project to $2.9 billion. It was previously estimated to cost $4.1 billion.

Shawn Reilly with Say No to Bridge Tolls has long advocated steps to be taken to reduce the reliance on tolls to pay for the bridges. He says the latest savings make his goal even more realistic.

“We’re still hoping we can convince them to keep the downtown bridge toll free,” he says. “They’re getting pretty close in the numbers, where the chance only the east end bridge will be tolled. We’re going to try to focus on that, but this is still great news for the community.”

Previously, officials were planning to use tolls of up to two dollars to pay for half of the project. Reilly says if tolls can be dropped to under one dollar, that would be a victory for his organization.

A fundraising plan is not yet complete for the project, but a spokesperson for the mayor’s office says absent a sudden influx of federal assistance, tolls will still be necessary.