I-69 Ohio River Crossing will include toll on new interstate bridge
January 20, 2021
Indiana is getting closer to a new toll road known as the I-69 Ohio River Crossing.
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that the Indiana Department of Transportation has found a preferred alternative route, which will be a new, four-lane tolled Interstate 69 bridge. Both Indiana and Kentucky plan to continue financial analysis and seek federal grant opportunities to reduce the revenue needed from tolls.
INDOT will retain one of the existing U.S. 41 Ohio River bridges for local traffic. That bridge will not include a toll. INDOT chose to retain the northbound U.S. 41 bridge due to its historic significance and serviceable condition.
According to a news release, INDOT’s selection for the I-69 Ohio River Crossing paves the way for publishing a final environmental impact statement and record of decision. Both of those are expected to be released sometime this year.
INDOT’s new toll road decision is in partnership with Kentucky. Both states will share costs of the I-69 Ohio River Crossing, which is estimated to be $1.5 billion. Funding will come from toll revenue and existing federal/state transportation funds. Costs include roadway and bridge operations and maintenance for 35 years following completion of construction.
According to INDOT, the I-69 Ohio River Crossing will provide cross-river system linkage and connectivity between I-69 in Indiana and I-69 in Kentucky that is compatible with the national I-69 corridor. The project is expected to reduce traffic congestion and delays and improve safety for cross-river traffic.
“As we finish construction of I-69 between Evansville and Indianapolis, Hoosiers are already experiencing the benefits of a faster, safer connection between southwest Indiana and our capital city and points beyond,” INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness said in a statement. “Moving forward on the I-69 Ohio River Crossing brings those same mobility and safety benefits to motorists on a regional scale along with tremendous opportunity for private investment and job growth.”
The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates sent Land Line the following statement:
The Ohio River Crossing tolls will be bad for businesses, truckers and commuters in both Indiana and Kentucky. As drivers are forced to use the toll bridge, it will increase the cost of moving goods throughout the supply chain, weaken the competitiveness of the area and raise prices on consumers. Communities and businesses that rely on the free stream of people and goods, such as restaurants and motels, will be negatively affected first and foremost. As tolls become permanent, nearly all Evansville and Henderson businesses will face tough choices about new shipping costs and travel times.
The I-69 Ohio River Crossing dates back to 2004 when an initial draft environmental impact statement was completed. However, the project was put on hold with no funding source in place. In 2014, Kentucky conducted a feasibility study on the matter. In 2016, governors for both states signed a memorandum of agreement regarding project funding. That resurrected the project, with another draft environmental impact statement released in December 2018.
The latest draft environmental impact statement for the I-69 Ohio River Crossing identified two preferred alternative routes: Central Alternative 1A and Central Alternative 1B. Both include a four-lane I-69 bridge and retain one U.S. 41 bridge. However, 1A would toll both bridges, whereas 1B tolls only the I-69 bridge. LL